For a young man who had never traveled much, Seth Pratt has logged quite a few miles this year. Since assuming the role of vice president for the western region of the national Future Farmers of America organization, he has racked up more than 85,000 miles and visited 40 states, plus Japan and Brazil.
“The nice thing about traveling for agriculture,” Pratt says, “is that everywhere you go, you get to meet the salt of the earth. Wherever I’ve gone, people have been welcoming and friendly.”
He talked about some of his experiences and his advocacy efforts for farmers and ranchers during the recent Ag Issues Summit in Austin, Texas.
Pratt grew up on a Blackfoot, Idaho, cattle ranch, where he hopes to return when he completes his obligations as an FFA officer and after he finishes a degree at the University of Idaho. He says he had never ventured far beyond Idaho and maybe a state or two away before he began traveling for FFA.
Alaska may be the favorite place he’s visited. “The people of Alaska are so friendly,” he says. “The country is wild and beautiful — it seems almost untouched.”
Learning about cultural differences across the country has been a good experience, he says. “That’s one of the best parts about traveling — learning to appreciate the different cultures. But I’m still partial to the boots and jeans culture of the U.S. West.”
That’s where he plans on settling down and raising a family after he gets his degree, which was put on hold for the year that he travels for FFA. “Taking a year off from school has been worth the sacrifice,” he says. “The networking and experience have been educational.”
It hasn’t always been easy. “It was challenging at first,” he says, “but I’m getting better at travel and living out of a suitcase.”
He’s spent only 30 days at home this year, and he has found travel enlightening, it’s not something he wants to do at this intensity all his life.
He hopes to work in agribusiness for a year or two after graduation to get a feel for the complexity of the industry. He says college has broadened his perspectives, especially on agriculture. “College made me a big picture person.”
But travel has taken that perspective even further. “I’ve learned how important agriculture is to the whole country, and to the world,” he says.
“But when it’s time for a family, I want to go back home and raise cows and kids. Cattle have been the main source of income for the family.”
Pratt says ranch life has a special appeal. “You get to spend a lot of time with family,” he says. “Family members are also co-workers; we play together and we work together. Kids get to be a part of making a living. We also get to see the results of what we do.”
He says the year away has been an opportunity to speak up for agriculture. “I’ve had this whole huge stage to talk about what the next generation of ag leaders will be like.”