Rebecca Johnson, a freshman in agronomy, spent her summer abroad while managing her own livestock operation back at home.
Rebecca traveled to Finland through the organization "States' 4-H." This organization works with the 4-H organization in the United States as well as similar organizations worldwide to provide exchange programs that offer cultural immersion. Kids 12-18 have the opportunity to travel abroad as exchange students or host a child around their same age for a month up to a year.
"Most of my time (three weeks) was spent with a family in Pori, Finland. They were very involved with harness racing," said Rebecca. "Although he no longer had a stable of his own, my host father was able to introduce me to many of the trainers and jockeys from the near by stable. I was also able to attend a race, bet on what horse I thought would win, and follow the racing results in the paper during my time there."
During her stay with her family, Rebecca explored the town of Pori as well as a nearby coast. She experienced a true Finnish sauna, helped with daily chores around the house, and drank a lot of coffee.
"The growing season in Finland is quite short because it is located so far north. Because of this they have to import a great deal of food," said Rebecca. "There are still many small farms growing mostly cereal crops, berry farms, and dairies. The main agricultural export is timber as it produces five percent of global forestry goods. They also produce a considerable amount of fur which is well known around the world."
Rebecca spent the last week of her trip at a Nordic 4-H camp that included 1,000 students from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. By attending this came, she heard a lot of different perspectives and learned that the average farm size in Finland was about 60 acres and the beef cow herd was 16 head. This was much different in comparison to her agricultural experiences in the United States.
I found that most everyone I met from this region was very globally aware and especially concerned about climate change. Nature is a very big part of their lifestyle so being environmentally friendly was very integrated into their lives," said Rebecca.
Regarding livestock, Rebecca got involved with her operation starting in the bucket bottle calf project in 4-H. She now owns 12 head of cattle, which are predominantly shorthorns.
In addition to her cattle, Rebecca got involved with breeding show goats.
"I started by buying a doe from my older sister and have now increased my herd to six does. While in high school, I showed the kids I raised in the county fair and sold the rest for show or meat," said Rebecca.
After getting tired of running to the store to purchase eggs for her baking projects, Rebecca decided to begin raising chickens as well.
"I started selling eggs when I was fourteen and have six weekly customers and many other irregular buyers. My flock has now reached about forty hens," said Rebecca.
Rebecca's livestock reside at her family farm in southwestern Kansas. Although she is away at college, her parents decided to keep the animals so they wouldn't get bored being "empty nesters." Rebecca worked out a deal for labor and feed costs so that she is able to keep the entirety of her operation as well as her customers.
"For the past four years I have been developing this operation as a Supervised Agriculture Experience through FFA. I was selected as both a district and state winner this year and was selected as a Silver Division Winner (top 14) at the national level," said Rebecca.