Summer Break…or So They Call It

October 2, 2023

Alex Hamblin
District 13



Back to school, back to school, to prove to Dad….something along those lines. Summer break is that special time every teacher, and probably every student, dreams about during the stressful moments of the school year. We get to relax and recharge as we prepare for the next academic year to begin. As we near the end of summer break, I know I’m not only preparing for my second year teaching Agriculture Production at Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, but also visiting students who are out on internships, and essentially being a gopher on my family’s farm here in Lawrence County.

Even though I ‘technically’ have the summer off, it sure hasn’t felt that way. We run a couple dozen center-pivot irrigations on our farm and on their own, those things are a full-time job. From parts runs to breakdowns to flat tires, it’s a hot job that requires a lot of hands, but in our part of the state, it’s almost all sandy ground and without irrigation, we wouldn’t be able to produce half of the quantity and quality grain and produce we grow. Being the gopher isn’t so bad though. In my adult life, I’ve always worked multiple jobs at a time, all off the farm, so I’ve really been enjoying having more time to work with my family and pitch in where I can.

I have seen District 13 Young Leaders also lead busy summers as they support their communities in different efforts, such as food drives, county fairs, Summer Ag Institutes, and more. Our district’s Young Leaders continue to grow, especially with the addition of Crawford County’s new Young Leader group. We’ve been working for several months to organize a kickoff event and with the help of some Lawrence County Young Leaders, it went very well. We are now preparing for my personal favorite Farm Bureau event, the Young Leader Discussion Meet. I am eager to see the participation we have this year and the solutions these young agriculturists come up with.

In other summer event news, I, along with 34 other Young Leaders from across Illinois, recently attended this year’s Ag Industry Tour in California touring more than 19 different types of agricultural operations unique to California’s Mediterranean climate. As the advisor of the WVC Collegiate Farm Bureau Chapter, one of the things we focus on is bringing awareness to what farmers across our great nation do and I feel very fortunate to have learned so much on this trip that I can now bring back to other agriculturists and especially to our students as they discover what types of farming and ranching opportunities are available to them.

Getting to see our college students working on farms as part of their internships has also been a great experience. When I do site visits, I get to chat with them and their employers and hear about what they’ve been doing and what they’re learning. One student is working on a farm that uses drones almost exclusively for spraying. We talked about the operators and how we might involve drone technology more in our curriculum moving forward. These conversations seem casual and nonchalant in the moment, but taking both student and agriculture employer’s input and making it a part of the learning experience is something I take very seriously. I want to give our student’s the best opportunity to learn and seeing what they need in a real work setting is one of my favorite ways to do that.

So as we prepare for summer to end and fall and the next school year to begin, let us focus on how we can continue improving our farms, our families, and the way we educate the next generation of farmers and ranchers. If you are looking for a way to support our educators and our students, I encourage you to reach out to your local teachers if you’re willing to be a guest speaker or possibly host a site visit for students. Many teachers (and AITC coordinators!) have Amazon wish lists that can be shopped from at your convenience. Those purchases are extraordinarily appreciated and go directly towards student learning success. No matter how you choose to support education, just know that teachers of all levels are working to ensure that our next generations of both consumers and agriculturists are educated and open-minded to new possibilities.