Man surprises daughter with tractor ride to school during National FFA Week

Jillian Tormoehlen had to arrive at Seymour Middle School early Tuesday morning to help with a duck hunt activity as part of National FFA Week.

As she was getting ready that morning at home, she called her dad, Michael, and he said he was on his way to pick her up.

“I’m like, ‘OK,’” she said in a confused tone.

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About a half-hour later, he pulls up close to the house in a different mode of transportation — a John Deere tractor.

She then learned he worked with Wright Implement in Seymour and FFA adviser Micah Wallace to surprise her.

“When my dad came in the house, I’m like, ‘You didn’t really have to do this.’ But Miss Wallace and him put this all together. They did this,” said Jillian, an eighth-grader and president of the FFA chapter.

That meant a lot to her.

“Very special,” she said. “Very different, but special.”

They left from their home near Seymour High School, went down Fourth Street and entered the back parking lot at the middle school.

“The ride was very different than a car,” Jillian said, smiling. “When we pulled into the parking lot, everybody was just amazed at what’s coming. My dad took me through the car line and parked in the parking lot. I was in shock.”

Teacher D.J. Henkle was working in the parking lot that morning. He didn’t know about the surprise, so when he saw the tractor entering the parking lot, he got on his handheld radio and asked administration.

“He saw me, and he’s like, ‘Typical. Only a Tormoehlen would do it,’” Jillian said with another smile.

Wallace said after the Seymour FFA degree ceremony a week ago, Michael came up to her and said, “I’ve got a photo op ready for you when Jillian gets to school.”

“I said, ‘What do you mean?’” Wallace said. “He said, ‘Well, I spoke with Wright Implement, and they are letting me use one of their tractors to bring Jillian, but she doesn’t know, so I want it to be a surprise.’ I was like, ‘Hey, why not?’”

Wallace emailed administration, and it was approved.

She said this was the first time in the four years of FFA at the school that she has had a student arrive at school in a tractor. The high school, however, has Drive Your Tractor to School Day each year in the spring.

“I had FFA members ready, so when they got here, I went out and got a picture,” Wallace said of capturing the moment Tuesday.

While it was a new experience for Jillian, being inside a tractor is a familiar place.

She said she learned how to drive a tractor a couple of years ago, and she is typically behind the wheel during harvest time.

Some of her classmates, though, aren’t as familiar with tractors, so they asked her a lot of questions.

“They were just getting excited because they were just amazed or confused why there is a tractor coming down the road,’” she said. “Many people know I show pigs at the fair, and they are like, ‘You live on a farm?’”

She doesn’t live on a farm, but she has shown pigs and goats with her family and friends at the Jackson County Fair for several years.

Bringing the tractor to school was educational for other students, Jillian said.

“To educate the FFA members, the younger members and the students in the school is just to have fun around agriculture,” she said. “It’s not difficult to do agriculture. It’s pretty easy.”

Wallace said having the tractor at the school opens up future opportunities to make National FFA Week more educational.

“Each year during FFA Week, we do something new, we try something new, and it’s just finding what works best for our culture here at the school,” she said.

“I do think that there is an opportunity to use these days as educational days where maybe next year, we can bring a tractor and have it parked outside the cafeteria,” she said. “It’s just a matter of having those resources, which we have plenty of. So many people in the community would be willing to help.”

Jillian said she appreciates what everyone did to make National FFA Week memorable.

“I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to Wright Implement for letting us do that because we’re pretty close friends with people that work there and run it,” she said. “I need to say ‘thank you’ to Miss Wallace and ‘thank you’ to everybody that has been helping me through this agriculture background, like my parents, my grandparents.”

As far as taking a tractor to school in the future, she hopes to be behind the wheel for Drive Your Tractor to School Day next year as a freshman.

“Oh yeah, I’ve told my dad about it,” she said, smiling.

Other chapters celebrate National FFA Week

The special week was filled with activities at Jackson County schools.

The middle school also had dress-up days for all students, and the FFA officers hosted an appreciation breakfast for teachers. Wallace said the most popular activity was the duck hunt, which involves students searching for rubber ducks hidden throughout the school and turning them in for prizes.

Seymour High School members also had dress-up days. Reading agriculture facts on the announcements each day, offering interactive activities for students at lunch and serving an appreciation lunch for staff members were among the activities.

On Thursday night, Seymour members competed against other District XI chapters in a charity volleyball contest in Oolitic. The team of Wallace, Abby Wiggam, Jessica Blevins, Audrey Wiggam, Lillie Wessel and Zoie Hoene made it to the championship game but lost to Paoli.

The upside was they received one-third of the money collected and chose to donate it to Reins to Recovery Inc. Therapeutic Riding Center north of Reddington.

At Crothersville, FFA and agriculture facts were announced each morning, hallways and windows were decorated, bags full of Reese’s Pieces were placed on members’ lockers with positive notes, teachers were given FFA cups with pens, pencils, candy and a quote and bus drivers, janitors and cooks were given Honey Buns and hot cocoa with a thank-you note.

Other activities included a corn kernel count at lunch, an FFA emblem hide-and-seek and dress-up days.

At Brownstown Central High School, the week started with an opportunity for students to guess the number of squishy toys in a tub for a chance to win a prize. A staff breakfast was served the next morning, and farmer dress-up day was Wednesday.

On Thursday, members’ names were written on sticky notes in a tractor outline and placed on a wall in the cafeteria, and other students were asked to write their names on a sticky note and add to the design of the tractor. Then Friday, FFA cookies were served after school.

Adviser Blake Hackman said it was a very successful week of promoting the FFA.

“The officers planned, organized and executed the activities really well,” he said. “I am very proud of the leadership skills that they have shown this week.”

As agriculturalists, he said it is their responsibility to educate the public about agriculture.

“Most people have no idea of all of the areas associated within the realm of agriculture,” Hackman said. “Because of this, many are misled with erroneous information about our food supply. Through the FFA, members are given the chance to promote agriculture and the wonderful accomplishments that are used to feed an ever-growing world.”

At Medora Community Schools, the newest chapter in the county had a state officer visit Thursday and competed in a volleyball tournament at Springs Valley High School. Sometime soon, FFA members plan to read to elementary students and talk to them about FFA so they will want to join when they are of age.

Trinity Lutheran High School was only in session three days last week, so its only activity was an FFA volleyball game Thursday. Adviser Bryan Schroer said members are planning to do more activities in March or April.

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FFA advisers in Jackson County

Brownstown Central: Blake Hackman

Crothersville: Linda Myers

Medora: Ashley Shoemaker

Seymour: Jeanna Eppley and Micah Wallace

Trinity Lutheran: Bryan Schroer