SLEEPY EYE, Minn. — Two FFA chapters are forging friendships and lifelong memories together, despite being almost 1,000 miles apart.

“I met Marie on the FFA Costa Rica trip. She is just awesome," Mary Hoffman, agricultural education teacher at Sleepy Eye (Minn.) Public School, said about Marie Carity, the agriculture education teacher for Miami East (Ohio) public schools. "We hit it off right away and really clicked, and we thought our kids would get along and click as well. One year I said, ‘Marie, we’re coming to visit you. We’re going to make this happen, we’re coming to Ohio.’”

So with a van full of students, the Sleepy Eye FFA chapter made the long trek to Ohio.

“We all drove in a van. There was lots of bonding with us,” said Morgan Hoffmann, Sleepy Eye FFA member.

The group broke up the trip by stopping and seeing some landmarks, but eventually made its way to its destination. Once they made it, Carity showed the travelers what Ohio agriculture has to offer.

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The FFA members hit it off with one another and were able to create strong friendships. (Contributed photo)
The FFA members hit it off with one another and were able to create strong friendships. (Contributed photo)
“It was a really fun experience being able to go and see and meet the other chapter. We got to visit places around there and see how their agriculture does everything. It was just a really fun experience,” Morgan Hoffmann said. “Hearing their different accents was cool, and it’s great seeing them at different FFA events like national convention, where we got to meet up with them.”

Some of their stops included a strawberry picking field, as well as a local dairy farm.

While the two chapters ended up hitting it off, Mary Hoffman said it took a while for the students to loosen up and get comfortable with one another.

“They were a bit awkward and standoffish at first, but warmed up to each other,” Mary Hoffmann said.

However, the students quickly became friends once the ice had been broken.

“Within an hour they were chatty and they were getting their social media and all their things set up so they can be friends later as well,” she said.

With the first trip to Ohio being a success, Miami East FFA then visited Sleepy Eye the following year. The group toured agricultural businesses to see the diversity that is in the ag industry.

“It was fun seeing their reactions to how we do things,” Morgan Hoffmann said.

The FFA members enjoyed getting to know one another and participating in various activities. (Contributed photo)
The FFA members enjoyed getting to know one another and participating in various activities. (Contributed photo)
Due to COVID-19, the two chapters are not sure when they will end up meeting next. However, they plan to meet in the middle for the next exchange, in either Indiana or Illinois.

“It depends on who gets to travel first, but we will definitely see them again,” Mary Hoffmann said.

As for the students, the exchanges have been welcomed and enjoyed. They urge other chapters to take the plunge and participate in an exchange themselves.

“I grew those friendships and then I got to see them the next year too. I think other chapters should do it as well, because it’s such an amazing opportunity,” Morgan Hoffman said.