MILLBROOK, N.Y. — On March 22-31, 7 members of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County (CCEDC) 4-H Teen Ambassador group took part in an experience of a lifetime: traveling abroad to Austria! The goal of the trip was for youth involved in the 4-H program and agriculture to compare our animal husbandry and agribusiness practices to those abroad. As the group visited numerous farms in Bad Schönau throughout the week, they took careful notes and absorbed how this community sustained their tightly knit family farms. They asked pertinent questions and observed different practices within the agricultural community.
Beyond this paramount goal, our youth achieved so much more. One of the 4-H members studied German in school, so she was able to communicate more easily; however the rest learned how to communicate and understand as many of the farmers were not fluent in English. The opportunity to be exposed to a different culture, time away from home- some for the first time, a new language, and new people all at once was a phenomenal experience. As they navigated their way through new cities, explored ancient architecture, learned a new currency, brought a whole new meaning to gaining communication skills, hiked the hills that make the region unique, ate traditional meals and tried their hand at traditional dancing, (while inserting their own!), they grew as individuals and as a team.
“The trip to Austria helped me see how things that you don’t usually picture working together could actually make sense. The farmers there were open to trying new things when necessity required it of them, and many farms we visited were using new technology. There was a great emphasis placed on the importance of family, but many kids are living away from home at 14 (their high schools are more specialized than ours). The people were incredibly hospitable, hardworking, and kind. The farmers placed a higher emphasis on the quality of their product rather than simply the quantity. It mattered more that everything was done in the right way than the cheapest way, yet they still had good business sense. They knew how to market their products, and help people see the value in what they purchased. We did see many things similar to the US – the layout of the barns, the silage, the school’s milking parlor, the breeds of animals (their main breed of cattle was Simmental, which they called Fleckvieh), and the American tractors. Many of the struggles that farmers have here, such as low milk prices and controversy over animal care, don’t change no matter where you live. Overall, the trip gave me some great ideas for my future in agriculture: if I ever have my own farm, business, and/or family, I have a better picture of how all those can all work together.” – Hannah Malafy, 16, member of the Dutchess County Teen Ambassadors
On May 12th, the youth came together again to host an Evening of Appreciation for their sponsors and share their experience abroad. The 75 guests arrived, greeted by the sounds of traditional Austrian music. They perused some of the photos and displayed items from the places the group toured. A typical Austrian dinner was served and as the guests enjoyed desserts, the group gave a presentation sharing photos and thoughts from the trip. A common theme was the reality of how technology can improve agribusiness as well as the importance of hands-on learning in education.
Over 70 sponsors helped make this experience possible through their generous donations!
–Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County