Danish students spend a morning on Southern Accent Farm

OKEECHOBEE — On Tuesday morning, 39 college students from Denmark spent a few hours learning about cattle ranching in the U.S. from Southern Accent Farm owner Allen Smith and his wife Nicki.

The students are enrolled in Dallum Agricultural College in Denmark, and were accompanied by economics teacher, Nina Riis and dairy teacher Jorgen Nordby. The experience was arranged through a company called Experience International, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Bellingham, Washington, whose mission is to “embrace, create opportunities for international understanding and human resource development through technical and cultural exchange in a wide spectrum of disciplines including but not limited to agriculture and natural resources.”

Denmark students learn about agriculture on a ride through pastures. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble.

Charlie Walkinshaw, director of Experience International, said they have been working with Dallum for 15 years. Every year they bring a group of students somewhere to visit and see what the culture and the agriculture in the U.S. is like. He said they used to visit other areas, but for the last few years, they have been coming to Florida. When they come, he makes arrangements with local extension offices, local growers and with friends he has made over the years. In Okeechobee, his contacts are Lauren Butler (livestock agent) and Colleen Larson (dairy agent) with the V.F. IFAS County Extension office.

This was not Dallum’s first visit to Southern Accent Farm. The Smiths have been welcoming the student groups for three years now, taking them on a ride through the pastures on the back of flatbed trailers while regaling them with tales of 12 foot alligators pulling cows into the creek by the head. The Smiths arrived in Okeechobee in 2002. Mr. Smith explained he started his purebred herd about 21 years ago.

All of the students seemed to take the tour very seriously, asking questions about the different ear tags on the cattle. One of the students, Hans Christian Stougaavd explained in Denmark they have more dairy cattle and very few beef cattle. They raise a lot of pigs, and they raise minks for the fur.

Niklas Rasmussen, another student said he was enjoying seeing the different cultures and different ways of farming. He finds it very odd that in Florida you can grow vegetables all year.

Many of the students seemed to feel Florida was huge. Apparently, you could fit three Denmarks inside the state of Florida.

The students said it took them about 24 hours to get to Miami from Denmark. Their trip is about 10 days but after travel time, they will have about a week in Florida. Many of them enjoyed a visit to Belle Glade to see the sweet corn growing, and especially liked that the farmers seemed interested in learning about how they grew things in Denmark. The students explained things like sweet corn don’t grow very well in Denmark because it is too cold. They grow fruits and spices in green houses and cabbages, wheat, barley, carrots, potatoes, and sugar beets (which they use to make sugar) in the fields.

After thanking the Smiths for their hospitality, the students headed off to the Okeechobee Livestock Market for lunch.

Students from Dallum Agricultural College in Denmark visit Southern Accent Farm in Okeechobee. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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