Guiding Principle #11
We value the connection between agricultural-based learning opportunities and how they impact the world.
The best way to learn about agriculture
It is my firm belief that the best way to learn about agriculture will always be to get your hands dirty. Growing up on a farm, it seemed that there was always a layer of soil under my nails; so, when I started my IFYE adventure, I was ready to get some Swiss soil under my nails. I prided myself on having a wide knowledge base on agricultural topics but was quickly humbled by all seven host families. Whether it was milking a goat, making cheese, thinning strawberries, raking hay, driving a tractor through a roundabout, picking apples, sorting potatoes, or cleaning the barns, there was always something new to learn. Each family brought new challenges and opportunities to learn by doing. My six months in Switzerland had numerous occasions where, despite language barriers, I was able to gain a farm-to-table education from my hosts.
My first host family
My first host family had just moved up the mountain to the cabin where they would live and work for the summer. I’m talking about a cabin with no electricity or running water! We used a wood-burning stove to cook meals, heat water for dishes, and make cheese. Once a week, we would drive into town just to take a hot shower! The typical day started early with my dad milking the cows and goats with the help of a gas generator to run the equipment. As soon as all the milk was collected, it was time for my mom to start the cheese-making process. Other than a brief pause for lunch, she worked systematically to turn the creamy white milk into the most delicious cheese. She would finish around three in the afternoon and would have a couple of hours to rest before it was time for the evening milking and dinner.
The recipe and process for this delectable cheese were both family secrets that were passed down by her father. After helping every day for two weeks, I was entrusted with the family’s secret recipe. I took the recipe back to Colorado and taught my dad how to make cheese. I learned more about hard work and agricultural life in my two short weeks on the mountain than I would have ever learned over a month’s time in a classroom back at home.
My final host family
My final host family, from “Lovely Mountain,” provided me with a direct link to the educational system in Switzerland. I worked alongside interns from the local agriculture college, attended the OLMA (regional stock show and educational fair), went to class with my host mom who taught floriculture and with my host dad who taught animal science at the local college. My hosts took the time to explain and teach me about recordkeeping, farming, dairy breeding, and apple marketing. To this day, I think fondly of my time with this host family every time I see apples in the grocery store. I fight the urge to start talking to the strangers next to me informing them of the varietal differences.
College graduation to IFYE to following my IFYE experience
My IFYE experience started a month after I graduated from college with a degree in Agricultural Education; so, I was more than excited to get away before starting my own career in education. Having a love for and appreciation of different cultures before starting any global travel only made me more excited about how to tie global agriculture into my future classroom of teaching and lessons.
Following my IFYE experience, I traveled and spoke to over 800 K-12 students about the importance of getting out and learning about new cultures and how we are all “the same, but different.” As a teacher, I made sure to tie lessons back to global connections so that students knew that agriculture is a global economy, that the world is so much bigger than our little county, and that they should never turn down an opportunity to get their hands dirty.
Tiffany Poet Zweygardt
Colorado to Switzerland 2012