07 September 2022

Study tours play an important part of the education program at Marcus Oldham with students seeing theory put into practice and giving them the chance to learn from experienced managers and industry leaders. As part of this, we take all Agribusiness, Agriculture and Equine students on domestic and international tours each year to expose them to multiple industries and business environments.

Over two weeks in August, Cleo Gower, Ben Jones and Andrew Baker travelled with our final year Bachelor of Business (Agriculture) students for a Southern US study tour kindly sponsored by CBRE. Principal Andrew Baker was gracious enough to pen this short tour summary for us.

Google “Southern hospitality” and you will come up with the answer: “a phrase used to describe cultural stereotype of the Southern United States, with residents perceived to show kindness, warmth, and welcoming of visitors to their homes”. Our final year Agriculture students can attest that this is true.

30 students in their final year of Bachelor of Business (Agriculture), landed in Fort Worth, Texas. After a day of relaxing in Fort Worth, with a visit to the historic Stock Yards area, to see the Texas Longhorn cattle and a Pro Bull Riding rodeo, we started our tour. A visit to Vytelle who demonstrated the cutting edge in IVF cattle breeding program to the students, and then to the Institute of Ranch Management at TCU, which set the scene of ranch management in southern USA.

We travelled east, right across Louisiana to the Mississippi River. Along the way we visited Kennedy Rice, a fully integrated paddock to plate rice producer. The students learned about the relaxed water policies and the simple scale of Southern US production.

Further south we saw corn, soybeans, beef, hemp, sugar cane, cotton, rice, alligator farming and crawfish and our hosts cooked local Creole and Cajun dishes for the students. Not to mention a visit to the Tabasco factory on Avery Island, where every bottle of Tabasco sauce is made. Crossing over the Mississippi River several times, we visited CHS Myrtle Grove Port Terminal, which is one of the largest ports in Louisiana, where they unload grain barges coming down the Mississippi river and load ships for export.

We travelled west back into Texas, with a stop at NASA Space Centre to visit the Space Shuttle and Saturn 5 rocket. We were met at King Ranch by the CEO, Robert Hodgen, who flew in from Houston to meet the students. King Ranch is 825,000 acres, which has a Santa Gertrudis cattle breeding and feedlot operation, cropping, game hunting, oil and not to mention its own John Deere dealerships, saddle shop, and museum. Robert hosted us for lunch in the family’s Pool House and a tour of the family home to look at the historic furniture and art, which is usually reserved for family members only.

Our final visit was on the way back to Fort Worth, to visit the Volleman family who run 5,000 intensive dairy, and value add, by bottling milk into re-usable glass bottles.

Overall, we have never experienced such openness and warmness. The people are extremely kind and gentle and will almost do anything to make you feel comfortable. The students learned a lot about Southern US agriculture, especially the scale, size and diversity. As well as their unique culture. A big thanks goes to CBRE who sponsored the tour.