Students take tractors to school to continue tradition


Leaving their cars and trucks at home for the day, nine Trinity Lutheran High School FFA members recently took a different mode of transportation to school.

They hopped on one of their family’s tractors, chugged along country roads and pulled into the school parking lot.

The students were OK with having to leave home nearly an hour earlier than usual because they were able to carry on the tradition of Drive Your Tractor to School Day.

Trinity, the first Lutheran high school in the nation to start an FFA chapter and offer agriculture classes, has participated in the event every year since an FFA chapter was established in 2005, said adviser Bryan Schroer.

It’s either during National FFA Week, which this year was Feb. 18 through 25, or sometime in the spring.

“It’s just nice to give them a chance to have a little fun,” Schroer said of Drive Your Tractor to School Day.

During that week, Trinity’s 25-member FFA chapter conducted a pork burger sale during lunch one day and hosted a breakfast for donors of the school’s agriculture building the next morning. Then the next day, some of the members drove their tractors to school.

Seniors Emma Wischmeier and Grant Hackman both live about 15 minutes from the school, so they were able to leave from their homes and drive their tractors to school.

Wischmeier said she has taken a different tractor each of the past four years. This time, it was a cabless International 1206.

“Usually, I take whatever tractor is available at the farm,” she said. “Around this time of year, it’s tricky with planters being hooked up and stuff like that.”

She said driving her Chevrolet Cruze to school usually takes about 15 minutes, but with a tractor not going faster than 30 mph, she had to leave about a half-hour earlier to get to school on time.

“I drove a tractor to school before I actually drove a car to school,” Wischmeier said, smiling. “My dad has farmed for all of his life, and it has been kind of a tradition that has been passed into my family.”

Once the tractors are lined up in the parking lot outside the school, Wischmeier said other students sometimes ask questions about them.

“I think they are just typically impressed by the scale of the tractors,” she said. “You see them out in the fields, but they are never as big as they are when you see them up close and personal. I think they are impressed and just in awe of how big they are.

“Other kids are acquainted with tractors and the rural life of Jackson County, but I think it’s interesting to see those ag kids really kind of show their traditions and where they come from,” she said.

This was Hackman’s third year driving a Versatile front-wheel assist tractor to school. He normally drives a truck.

“It gets people’s attention,” he said. “It’s exciting to do something different. You drive them in fields, so it’s kind of cool driving in town. You’ve got to be a lot more aware of people in cars and stuff.”

Hackman said he has been driving tractors since he was about 12.

“You learn on something smaller, and then you work your way up,” he said.

A group of students who live farther from the school met on the southwest side of Seymour and took back roads to get to Trinity.

That included senior Colton Wischmeier, who participated in Drive Your Tractor to School Day for the third year.

He drove a four-wheel drive assist tractor the first year and switched to a front-wheel assist tractor the past two years.

“It’s just a fun trip with your friends, and you get a lot of head turns when everybody sees what’s going on,” he said.

When the group was near Seymour High School, a boy and his mother were outside waving at them. When the students arrived at Trinity, they were there for the boy to get pictures with them.

“I liked just making the little kid’s day,” Wischmeier said. “You could just see on his face how happy he was. It was a great experience.”

Senior Chad Stuckwisch was a part of that group, too.

Even though he has been in FFA all four years of high school, this was his first time participating in Drive Your Tractor to School Day.

“It’s something they’ve always done that I’ve never really taken part of, but this year, my senior year, I decided to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s a fun thing to do.”

Instead of driving his Chevrolet Malibu to school, he said it was interesting riding on his New Holland tractor for a day.

“You get a lot of looks when you drive by,” he said. “When you have seven tractors in a line, you get a lot of funny looks. It was neat.”

Stuckwisch said he didn’t get too many questions from other students because they are used to the school’s tradition.

“It’s cool bringing it to real life and what farmers get to do on a daily basis for the city people that don’t get to see or be in (a tractor),” Stuckwisch said.

With some of this year’s participants graduating in the spring, Stuckwisch said he expects the underclassmen to keep Drive Your Tractor to School Day going.

“It’s good for the school and good for agriculture itself just to keep it alive,” he said.

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