When Columbus high school students ask for the keys to drive to school on the Friday of FFA week, they aren’t inquiring about the family car.
FFA members from Columbus East and North high schools drove their farm tractors, trucks and utility tractors to school Friday morning — and there was even a combine in the caravan. Each year, the FFA, which is made up of students from both high schools, chooses one of the high schools as the destination for the tractor event.
FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, has been doing Drive Your Tractor to School day for years. This year’s event started at the Columbus Bowling Center on State Street and traveled around the corner to Columbus East, where the vehicles were parked for the day in the bus lanes at the high school.
Columbus FFA president Mallory Meyer was driving a tractor, following in the footsteps of her father, Mark, who drove in the event 25 years ago.
This year, there were about 15 tractors and four trucks, one of the local chapter’s largest turnouts. It’s something FFA students around the nation did to celebrate FFA Week.
Mallory Meyer said it’s about saying thank-you to farmers — adding that without agriculture and farmers, there wouldn’t be food or clothing.
“We want to say, ‘Be proud of your farming life,’” she said.
Mark Meyer looked down the line of tractors and mentioned that when he drove to school in a tractor a quarter-century ago, there was only one other guy involved.
Now, seeing all the young people piloting everything from utility tractors to four-wheel-drive John Deere vehicles, he smiled at the thought of how being in FFA affects students’ lives.
“They will grow up and be friends for life,” Mark Meyer said, watching the students as they talked before the drive.
“That’s the way it is with all of us farmers — south or north end — we’re all connected, and we all communicate with each other.”
Will Swope, who drove in the tractor caravan as a North student in 2008, brought a John Deere tractor in for his little sister Hadlee to drive. Hadlee is a junior at East.
In true big-brother fashion, he rode along to make sure she was OK.
Swope farms with his father, Matt, producing corn, soybeans and wheat on 400 acres. He said he had wanted to be a farmer ever since he was old enough to climb onto a tractor. He remembers many students being in shock as they watched tractors drive up and park along 25th Street years ago when FFA members drove to North during FFA Week.
The turnout for Friday’s event made Allison Korb, FFA adviser, smile through the 34-degree weather.
She was a bit worried about having enough space to park the large vehicles at the end of the drive at East but said that still was a good thing.
“This is impressive,” she said, looking at the FFA members. “It’s blowing my mind right now.”
As they arrived at East, Christy Boes, an East I-Grad leader, stood outside the doors, revisiting the days when she was in FFA here and was one of the first young women to drive a tractor in the event.
“I’m amazed to see all the girls driving,” she said, pointing out a few that she knew and saying how nice it was to know that the tradition continues.
As the FFA members arrived, those who drove tractors without cabs were trying to warm up but still pleased by the commotion they caused on the road and the looks they were getting as they parked the tractors.
“This is my new favorite part of FFA,” said freshman Bailey Meyer, little sister to the group’s president, who had just finished her first drive.