Willkommen, German Freunde!
Welcome, German Friends!
Pictured left to right touring LMC, Inc. are Peter Muck, Steve Bailey, Veronica Ewender, Bernard Maier, Andrea Maier, Holly Garcia, Irene Gruber, Mark
Earnest, Stephanie Muck, Kathi Finsterer, Levi Dunn, Lewis Carter, Jr., Wes Pace, and Myles Mosely.
The Seminole County Middle High School agriculture educators Levi Dunn, Holly Garcia and Wes Pace were accompanied by SCMHS administration Mark and Kelly Earnest, Shane and Felicia Purdy as well as DOE Program Specialist for World Languages Patrick Wallace and his wife Maria on a trip back in October of 2022 to visit an agricultural partner school in Landshut, Bavaria.
On Wednesday, March 29, a group of seven German educators landed at the Atlanta International Airport to travel south where they would make history visiting the Seminole County School System and our local community here in Donalsonville. The German visitors included Veronika Ewender, head of English Department, Stephanie Muck, representative of the Agriculture Department, Peter Muck, Forestry Division, Irene Gruber, responsible for practical training, Bernard Maier, English teacher in the field of agriculture and Kathi Finsterer, English teacher in the field of health.
Back in August 2021, Mr. Steve Bailey, farm manager of Seldom Rest Farm, hosted the very first meeting at the German guesthouse where Mr. Patrick Wallace, SCMHS administration and agriculture educators began planning to partner with a German Agricultural School. Students from SCMHS have been working on projects virtually with the German partner school since returning back to school from school closure due to Covid.
Both groups of educators from each country have now traveled to the other group’s school, and plans are being made for the first exchange of students.
There is a lot of excitement growing at SCMHS among faculty and administrators as this exchange marks the first in Georgia between an American and a German agricultural school.
On Thursday, March 30, the German visitors met with the Seminole County Board of Education members, school administration, agriculture teachers, FFA students and members of the community at the Seminole County Agriculture Center where they were served breakfast. The group then went on an all-day tour of the Seminole County School System where they visited teachers and their students in classrooms throughout the schools. After touring the schools, the visitors were entertained by an exciting game of Indian baseball where Seminole County came from behind to defeat the team from Sneads, Florida.
On Friday, April 1, the group took an agriculture industry tour that began at Lewis M. Carter Manufacturing (LMC). Mr. Lewis Carter, Jr., Myles Mosely and Mason Mosely took the German visitors throughout the manufacturing shop and explained the design, operation and uses of the advanced machinery that the company has built and improved for many years. They explained the purpose and unique features of this machinery, and the fact that LMC has been a world-wide success in building the processing equipment that is used by not only our local shelling plants, but also by some of the largest food manufacturers in the world. The group was astonished that machinery capable of processing so many raw products around the world is being built right here in our corner of the state. Mr. Carter and his team treated the guests to some nice gifts before they departed. After touring LMC, the group was introduced to some good home southern cooking at Jo’s Restaurant, and then transported to American Peanut Growers Group (APGG).
At APGG, the German group was met by President and CEO of the company, Mr. Neal Flanagan. Mr. Flanagan escorted the group into the shareholders conference room where he and team members Scott Miller and Jeremy Mayes gave everyone an overview of the company and a breakdown of its operations. The German guests learned that APGG has some of the very best grower members that produce some of the highest quality peanuts that are sold to most peanut product manufacturers in the United States and all over the world. The group was given a tour of the APGG shelling facility and witnessed firsthand how the gravity separation machines, destoners, vibratory conveyors and other advanced machinery built at LMC operate to complete the shelling process. The tour then resumed to the cold storage facility where Jeff McFay explained the blanching process, cooler capacity for the facility and the importance of keeping peanuts fresh prior to packing. The last part of the tour included a walk-through of the newly constructed American Peanut Ingredients facility (API). The APGG team gave the German guests a detailed description of how dry roasted split peanuts, dry roasted peanut granules, and dry roasted peanut paste/butter/variegate will be packaged in various bulk containers. The APGG tour ended back at the conference room where the group was treated to several ready-to-eat peanut products.
The final stop of the Friday afternoon agriculture tour took place at Mims Farm. Greg and Stephanie Mims were joined by Clent and Rand Mims to host the German group around their facilities and one of their fields. The group learned about daily operations around a busy farm in Southwest Georgia, the importance of taking care of the soil, and farm equipment and machine efficiency that lead to increased crop production yields. The farm trip was a great way to end the afternoon by showing the group how farmers produce the food that feeds our world population. After departing Mims Farm, the guests enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by Atherlone Trawick, Geeja Mims and Donna Watt at Four Oaks Gatherings in Iron City. The German visitors were extremely complimentary of the food and southern hospitality.
On Saturday, April 2, the German group was treated to many firsts that they wanted to experience in our country so arrangements were made to do just that. The morning started off with a trip to the Bainbridge Wal-Mart and then lunch at Chick-fil-A. The group was then taken to Arlington, GA where they enjoyed a grand tour of Still Pond Vineyards. Afterwards, they were taken back to Bainbridge where they enjoyed a downtown tour and dinner at “The American”.
The following Sunday, the group attended Friendship Methodist Church in Donalsonville where they enjoyed a fantastic Easter Cantata performance by the church choir. The guests were taken to Seminole State Park afterwards where they enjoyed a BBQ feast prepared by Levi Dunn and family. After lunch, the group was entertained by Cliff Bennett and his airboat crew who gave them a wild ride across Lake Seminole. The German guests were absolutely fascinated by the many alligators they saw on the lake. After taking in the lake experience, the group enjoyed dinner at Big Jim’s Restaurant.
On Monday, the German guests traveled to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, GA where they were able to experience a day of agricultural higher education on the campus of one of the very best American post-secondary schools. The group visited the ABAC farm and had lunch in the ABAC dining hall with the South Region Agriculture Education staff. The group was also given a full tour of the Agricultural Research Building, Future Farmstead, and Eco Friendly House at the University of Georgia/Tifton Campus. After their tour, the German guests returned to Donalsonville where they had dinner and social hour with other guests from the community at the home of Shane and Felicia Purdy.
On Tuesday, April 5, the Germans enjoyed their last full day of touring by experiencing the beautiful Emerald Coast beaches at Seaside. For some of them, it was their first trip to a beach, and it was the first time that all of them were able to see the beautiful white sand of our gulf shores. When the crew arrived back in Donalsonville, they were treated to a ribeye steak meal prepared by Randy Earnest at the Seminole County Agriculture Center.
The last day of the Germans time here in Donalsonville was the following Wednesday morning. Cindy Meadows escorted the group to SunSouth Equipment where Mr. Brian Harrell gave them an overview of the store’s inventory, operations and sales. The guests were very impressed at the size and capabilities of the John Deere tractors and machinery sold at SunSouth. They were given gifts before departing the store and driven back to the Atlanta International Airport.
The Seminole County FFA, Young Farmers and School System would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all of our businesses, individuals and the entire community of Seminole County who made our German guests feel welcome here. Their trip left long-lasting memories for our teachers, students, administrators, business professionals and everyone who was able to share the experience with them.
The students from the Schönbrunn Vocational School in Landshut, Bavaria have been working together virtually with FFA students from Seminole Middle/High School. Now that both partner schools have sent staff to each school’s campus in Germany and the United States, plans are being made for a student exchange so that students from both schools can experience international agriculture opportunities in another country. Seminole County Middle/High School is ready to offer opportunities that no other agriculture department in the state of Georgia has available yet for its students, and it’s an exciting time for everyone involved.