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WIU sophomore agriculture major Brandon Livingston, right, and WIU alumnus Steve Sargeant recently traveled to Ireland as part of a prestigious FFA opportunity.
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WIU ag major Brandon Livingston was one of 52 national FFA winners selected from the 188 national FFA Agricultural Proficiency Award finalists for a June trip to Ireland.
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WIU Ag Student Visits Ireland on Prestigious FFA Tour

August 4, 2017

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MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University sophomore agriculture major was one of three Illinois students to earn an opportunity to tour agricultural sites in Ireland in June.

Brandon Livingston, of Marietta, IL, was one of 52 national FFA winners selected for the trip from the 188 national FFA Agricultural Proficiency Award finalists. Livingston won his national FFA award in nursery operations – entrepreneurship placement category in late 2016. The award was the result of records Livingston kept through his work at Hart's Nursery in Bushnell, IL, which is owned by WIU alumni Jeff and Pam Vancil.

The Ireland trip included visits to dairy, sheep, mussel and potato farms and a water buffalo dairy. In addition, they visited a beef farm, which is one of the original members of the West Cork Beef Producers Group, and traveled to the Irish National Stud Thoroughbred Horse Breeding Facility. The trip, which also included visits to scenic sites, was meant to introduce students to the practice of agriculture in other countries.

Livingston was joined on the trip by his Bushnell High School FFA advisor, Steve Sargeant, who is a 1990 WIU graduate with a degree in agriculture.

"We toured and saw some of the finest equestrian stock in Ireland," said Livingston. "From there, we got on the bus to the Killoran Dairy Farm, where a young farmer talked about his sheep operation and how he works to become more and more sustainable and use his land more efficiently to increase his profits."

Students then toured the Nicholson beef farm and had a hog roast with the Irish version of an agricultural youth organization.

"We woke up the next morning and hopped on a boat to view a mussel farm," said Livingston. "We then went to a water buffalo milk and cheese farm and even had the opportunity to sample buffalo milk mozzarella."

The following day, students went on a scenic tour of the Ring of Kerry, with a stop to see a sheep dog and sheep shearing demonstration. They also visited a potato farm and learned about a potato growing farm that has been expanding to cattle and wheat for economic reasons.

"During all points of my tour, our guides taught us Irish history and Irish customs, and let us enjoy Irish music," said Livingston. "It was a life changing opportunity."

For more information about the WIU School of Agriculture, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing