HAMILTON, Mont. - The state's newest crop of agricultural leaders are touring Western Montana in a school bus.
Future Farmers of America and their advisers are getting highlights from a variety of ag operations.
Montana's leading industry is becoming increasingly diverse.
The Ag Opportunity Tour gives FFA members experience to meet challenges in ever growing markets.
FFA's top leaders got first hand glimpses of a feed mill in Hamilton.
The young farmers come from Richey and Fairfield, Great Falls, Missoula and Dillon.
"Montana across the state," said FFA Foundation executive director, Jaime Edmundson,"we have 87 chapters and 2,600 students."
Many students plan to build careers in the ag industry.
It could be a traditional farm or ranch, computer technology to design new tractors, or in the classroom.
"I'd love to be an agricultural teacher," said FFA member Warren Krone, from Vaughn,"and I really enjoy horses, so I'd like to be a horse trainer as well."
Warren Krone's going to college to double major in ag education and equestrian riding and training.
At Lakeland Feeds, students got tips on ag retail sales, and marketing,
"By 2050," said Jaime Edmundson,"we'll be feeding 9 billion people across the world."
Many of the young men and women at Friday's tour could be doing that feeding.
Students saw a high tech operation at Mu Juice Dairy in Corvallis.
They saw value added with Moo Poo Compost.
Gwynn Simeniuk is already in college, studying agricultural education and animal science.
Born and raised on a ranch, she said, "We are able to utilize different technology to diversify and manage our risks better. We also have to be more aware of consumer demand."
High land prices squeeze young starters out of the market.
Farms and ranches are disappearing under development.
Once they're gone, they're gone.
Farmers and ranchers are getting old, and aren't being replaced.
But nobody's going to quit eating.
"People should realize where their food comes from and be more involved in the ag process,"said Missoula FFA member Austin Standley,"because then people are removed from that and they lose connection and the industry suffers."
Agriculture needs young men like Austin, who also wants to be an agriculture teacher, and especially enjoys raising beef cattle.
On the bus, on their way to a seed potato farm in Twin Bridges and a cattle ranch in Harrison, the FFA kids recalled their purpose.
"FFA members, why are we here? ,"they ask.
"To practice brotherhood,
" they recite, "to honor agricultural opportunities and responsibilities and develop those qualities of leadership which an FFA member should possess.