Student News

UK student, FFA officer represents Kentucky for international leadership experience in Australia

Casey Montgomery stnading
Casey Montgomery in Australia with past officers
Casey Montgomery dawning her FFA gear

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 18, 2024) — University of Kentucky junior Casey Montgomery, an agricultural education student at the UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, was selected to attend the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers (ILSSO) for a 10-day excursion in Australia.

Each year, ILLSSO invites 75 current or past state FFA officers with active memberships to this global agriculture experience. The trips are aimed at developing participants’ global agriculture awareness outside of the U.S. Montgomery, who is from Kentucky, was the only UK student selected.

“I was very grateful to represent UK and Kentucky,” Montgomery said, who served as an FFA state officer from 2022-2023. “To meet all these past and current FFA student officers from different states was inspirational. I made it a mission to be a light for my program, our industry and to present my state in a bright, positive way.”

Montgomery shared that she wanted to absorb all that Australia had to offer and bring back good knowledge and insights.

Australia Trip

Montgomery’s international experience began in Sydney, where the group took a historical tour of the capital city, including the Royal Botanical GardensHarbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. This was followed by a trip to the top of Mount Ainslie in south Canberra.

In the subsequent days, the group took advantage of agriculture learning opportunities in other urban and rural areas. This included visiting the Agricultural Attaché based at the U.S. EmbassyFuture Farmers Network AustraliaAustralian Rural Leadership ProgramMurrumbidgee Irrigation Area, Marcus Oldham Agricultural CollegeHealesville Wildlife SanctuaryYarra Valley and more.

Along the way, Montgomery’s group encountered a meat sheep enterprise, pasture management consultants, cattle feedlots and other city districts. Additionally, the group visited the Parliament House to further understand Australia’s system of government.

“I learned that opportunities in agriculture are endless and diverse,” Montgomery said. “This experience taught me that we need everyone. Everyone was so hospitable and inspired me to bring this knowledge back to my community. I want to be a voice for this industry.”

The full 2024 ILSSO agenda can be found here.

Family Influence

Originally from Taylorsville, Kentucky in Spencer County, Montgomery grew up on a third-generation family farm that produces swine. She helped breed stock, raise commercial cattle, show swine, feed pigs and more.

Montgomery’s family was active in different agricultural programming, like 4-H Livestock Club at the Spencer County extension office. This insight drove Montgomery to become more involved in agriculture programs while attending Spencer County High School. Between her school and local UK Cooperative Extension office, Montgomery pursued several leadership opportunities, including FFA Chapter president, 4-H Livestock Club vice president and volunteering in the Animal Science Club.

“My teachers and advisors in high school were inspirational, helping me transform my understanding of agriculture and giving back to others,” Montgomery said. “Two of my teachers were UK graduates and spoke highly of their experience. One of them was a graduate of the agricultural education program and the other taught for 40 years. Attending UK and pursuing my goal of becoming an agriculture teacher was the right decision for me.”

UK and career aspirations

Montgomery remains active in the UK agricultural education program.

The Martin-Gatton CAFE student ambassador has been involved in Sigma Alpha Professional Sorority, Block and Bridle Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Agriculture Education Society/Alpha Tau Alpha, UK Dairy Judging Team, the UK Living Learning Program and the Kentucky State All-Star Livestock Judging Team.

Next spring, Montgomery plans to take advantage of an experiential learning opportunity offered in the agricultural education program at UK. She will be matched with a current agriculture teacher in Kentucky, known as a cooperating educator, and teach students in a real classroom setting, while gaining valuable mentorship.

Montgomery shares that this unique opportunity will help her obtain her teaching certificate and reach her career goal of becoming a teacher in a Kentucky high school classroom after graduation.

Montgomery is slated to graduate in May 2025 with a bachelor’s in agricultural education with a double minor in animal sciences in agricultural economics.

“I always felt comfortable and sense of belonging at UK,” Montgomery said. “I love my program and have such great teachers who inspire me every day. UK and Kentucky are my home.”

To learn more about the agricultural education program in the Community and Leadership Development department, visit

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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