Kelli Hamilton has a condition and she isn’t a bit ashamed to admit it.
“I’m an ‘ag’ nerd,” said the Pasco High School agribusiness and natural resources teacher.
She’s so interested in agriculture that she’s planning to spend a month in South Korea this summer learning about that country’s agricultural education programs. Hamilton already has been to Ireland and to Iowa to get acquainted with agriculture in those parts of the world.
She’s making the trip to South Korea through a University of Florida/Penn State Program for undergraduate, graduate and kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. Hamilton is among a group of teachers from Florida, Pennsylvania and Connecticut who are making the trip, traveling with eight students from Pennsylvania State University, and four faculty members from the two universities.
While in South Korea, they will see the country’s Future Farmers of Korea program, which is based on FFA. They also will observe various levels of education programs and various agricultural techniques.
The trip begins June 14 and concludes July 13.
“I’m pumped,” Hamilton said. “I definitely want to learn more about how they do their education system.”
She hopes to pick up different teaching techniques and to have a better understanding of the differences between agriculture in South Korea and agriculture here.
“I’m intrigued about the Korean agriculture just because it’s a developing country,” Hamilton said. “They’ve had a lot of strife in the past 50, 60, 70 years, so I want to see how they’re changing and adapting to that.”
The study abroad course and experience is a joint venture between the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida, and the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education at Penn State.
In an essay explaining why she wanted to study abroad in Korea, Hamilton wrote, “When traveling overseas, we are able to see the same thing through a different set of lenses.
“Agriculture is in every corner of this planet,” she added. “It is different in some ways, but ultimately the same.”
She also expressed confidence that she could transfer the knowledge she gains into lessons in her Pasco High classroom.
Hamilton already knows how to give students real-world lessons, said Amber Hill, 17, a senior.
“She’s an amazing teacher. She doesn’t just give us facts. She gives us hands-on opportunities. She cares about what you learn,” Hills said.
Besides investing her time in the trip, Hamilton also is investing her money. She’s eager to make the trip.
“I’m pumped,” Hamilton said. “I’m going there to see how they do agriculture education, at all different levels from elementary to high school to college.”
Recently, Hamilton was talking to her students about differences that farmers encounter in different parts of the world. She talked to them about how terrain, equipment, weather, water and soil fertility can influence what crops are produced and where they are marketed.
She talked about some of the strengths and pitfalls of modern machinery and technology that today’s farmers can use.
“I actually went to visit a farm in Iowa. They have this huge sprayer, and it was on a pilot,” Hamilton said. “Basically, they use GPS.”
By using modern technology, farmers can fully utilize the space they have, can reduce manual labor, and can use less fuel, she said.
But there can be a downside.
“There was a lot of rain this past year, so part of the field had fallen down into the river, Hamilton said. “The tractor was on autopilot and it didn’t account for that terrain washing into the river, so he (the farmer) ended up flipping his brand-new sprayer.”
The farmer went into the river with it, and it turns out that it’s not so simple to shut down the computer system, she said. There’s a lot of debate in the United States and internationally about the benefits and risks of new technology, she said.
Hamilton also talked with the students about the economics of agriculture and the rules of supply and demand. If there’s a high supply and a low demand, prices drop, she told them.
Courtney Nathe, 17, said she hopes Hamilton will create a presentation that the teacher can share with students when she returns.
“I definitely think it’s a good opportunity for her, just to see what it’s like in an international market,” Nathe said.
She also thinks Hamilton is a worthy candidate for the program and will be able to convey what she learns to her students.
“She makes class interesting. She communicates well with teenagers,” Nathe. “She’s young enough that she does understand (teenagers), so it makes the class a little bit more interesting and we learn.”
Published April 16, 2014
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