Greek high school students visit Avoyelles Parish farms

Part of three-week tour to learn about Louisiana agriculture

A delegation of 10 high school students and their supervisor came a long way to learn how Avoyelles Parish farmers have earned a reputation as some of most efficient in the nation. The students from Greece were hoping to gain knowledge they could bring home and use later when graduate and start their careers.

Members of the LaSAS Future Farmers of America (FFA) served as host and tour guide for the Greeks’ two-day visit last Wednesday and Thursday (July 26-27). They spent the night at the Juneau Safari Camp in Bordelonville.

“I know they picked us to hold the tour because we have a strong FFA chapter at LaSAS,” said Robin Moreau, who oversees the FFA chapter at LaSAS. “We re hoping they go back to Greece and start an FFA chapter there.”

The group arrived in America on July 16 and will be returning to the “birthplace of democracy” on Aug. 5.

They have seen farming operations from Vinton, Texas, near the state line, to Avoyelles -- a short skip away from the Mississippi border.

VISITED THREE FARMS

In Avoyelles, they visited James Deshotel’s sweet potato farm in Bayhills, Reuben Dauzat’s farm in Hamburg and JK Farms, owned by Jules and Kevin Bordelon, in Bordelonville.

“We are excited to show this group of students how we farm in this area of the state,” Moreau said.

McNeese State University (MSU) in Lake Charles arranged to bring the students on the agricultural tour of the state.

“McNeese contacted me in the Spring and we started planning this trip,” Moreau said. “It was exciting to see this come together so these young men and women could observe our practices.”

Deshotel explained the process of planting, growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping sweet potatoes. Dauzat and JK Farms discussed the harvesting of soybeans, corn and milo.

Grecian farms are much smaller and the nation has much less land dedicated to agricultural production, MSU’s Dr. Chip LeMieux said. LeMieux heads the university’s Agriculture Department.

He said a “large” farm in Greece would be about 100 acres.

THREE-WEEK TOUR

“These students and their supervisor are here on a three-week tour to see how farming is done in the U.S. and Avoyelles Parish,” LeMieux said. “They want to see how it’s done.”

The students are juniors and seniors at the American Farm School in Thessaloniki, Greece.

And, yes, that makes them Thessalonians. The city’s name is pronounced Thess-a-lo-NEE-kee. It was named after the half-sister of Alexander the Great and is the capital of Greek Macedonia -- not to be confused with the nearby Balkan nation of the same name.

Thessaloniki, located in northern Greece, is that nation’s second largest city. It is a major economic, industrial, commercial and political center and a transportation hub not only for Greece but all of southeastern Europe, most notably through its port.

The school is an independent, non-profit educational institution founded in 1904 by American missionary John Henry House to serve the rural population of Greece and the Balkans.

The school's mission is “to educate men and women, especially those from Greece and the Balkans, to become professionally accomplished in the latest aspects of agriculture and the life sciences.”

The school is a pre-K-12 school. The campus also contains a university that is not affiliated with the American Farm School.

LeMieux and MSU Professor Dwight Bertrand went to AFS last Fall to begin work on bringing the students to Louisiana.

AN ANNUAL EVENT

They hope to make this an annual event with students coming from Greece and local students going to Greece.

“We really would like to see some of the students from Greece come to McNeese to take agricultural courses,” LeMieux said. “We would love to take students to work in Greece.”

The students paid for their own travel expenses to come to the U.S.

LeMieux said AFS students must grow some type of agricultural product. They raise dairy animals, olives, grapes, poultry and turkeys at the school.

It is probably the school’s interest in that last bird that is responsible for the growing popularity of the American holiday of Thanksgiving at the school, which has became a major annual event.

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