Blaze Currie was your typical small-town Texas kid. He played football and participated in many organizations at Wellman-Union High School. However, during his freshman year, Currie found a true passion in FFA.
“He loved it and was gifted for it,” says Bruce Yeager, Currie’s high school superintendent.
Currie became an area FFA officer in 2003 and served as a Texas state FFA officer in 2004. In college, Currie worked for the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture as a tour guide for visiting scientists from throughout the world.
“For a sophomore in college, it was a big job,” Currie says. “They knew I had been involved in FFA so they knew they could trust me.”
This job also opened up an internship for Currie in Rwanda through the Borlaug Institute. He lived there for two-and-a-half months as he worked on a coffee project called Spread.
“Rwanda was probably the most challenging since it was my first experience,” Currie says.
Challenges arose, such as the language barrier or being so far from home for the first time, Currie said, but nothing compared to what Currie saw.
“You see the pictures and videos on TV of children with swollen bellies,” Currie says. “I had kind of prepared myself for that.”
What he had not been prepared for was the personnel connection he could have with it, he says.
Currie recalls a specific day when a little boy’s eyes caught his attention. The boy had an extreme case of malaria, was paper thin and carrying an old feed sack made into clothes, Currie says. He was a beggar on the street.
“I remember his eyes were really yellow,” Currie says. “You could tell he was very, very sick, but you couldn’t give him food because there were so many others.”
Eventually, Currie and his teammates used the other side of the street because they knew they were not able to help, he says.
“The biggest moment for me was when we walked by again, and he wasn’t there,” Currie says. “At that moment, we realized he had died. What I couldn’t get over is not that he had died, because children were dying over there all the time. What I couldn’t get over is how long he had been there. No one knew if he was alive or dead.”
Currie says he had to overcome the guilt he felt to be an effective teammate and not feel superior.
“Basically, I fell in love with international people,” Currie says.
“My first experience was meeting international people on U.S. soil,” he says. “My next was living in a foreign country for two-and-a-half months. After that, I had the bug for international development.”
After he graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in agricultural leadership, Currie worked in Iraq for the Borlaug Institute to interview youth and report his research to the military.
This passion for international agriculture kept growing inside Currie throughout his time of working for the Texas FFA Association and National FFA Association as a state officer and national officer team coach, he says. He worked his way on to the Global Task Force where he had the opportunity to explore different agricultural practices worldwide, went on a joint trip with FFA and 4-H to Tanzania to train youth, and played a key role in the start of AgriCorps, an organization that teaches agricultural development practices to youth of developing countries.
Trent McKnight, founder of AgriCorps, says, “In many ways, Blaze was the one who laid the ground work for it to happen. He set up all the tee balls to be hit.”
McKnight says Currie was his connection to the main people who support AgriCorps, including many people at Texas A&M, the executive director of 4-H Liberia and members of the National 4-H Council.
In November 2013, AgriCorps took a pilot trip to teach agricultural development and leadership skills to youth in Liberia.
One night, a student named Mishel came by. Mishel says he did not have a garden row in the school because he had not been a 4-H member before, but he would like to have one, says Kalie Hall, an AgriCorps volunteer.
Hall explains that Currie talked to Mishel about why he wanted it. When Currie told Mishel he could have his own row, Mishel was so excited he rushed off to get his tools and finished it that night.
She adds that it’s this type of inspiration and passion that Currie brings to every project he leads.
“Blaze didn’t just go there to check off a list,” Hall explains. “He tried to understand people and find out what agriculture meant to them so we could make a bigger impact.”
After that trip, Currie decided to accept the position of executive director for AgriCorps, realizing that this is his best place to make an international impact.
“Blaze has a tremendous passion for agricultural development, for AgriCorps and for making a difference,” McKnight says.
Currie was not directly introduced to international agriculture through FFA, but looking back, he says he the skills he uses everyday were learned during his FFA career.
“Knowing how to talk to people from different places was the most valuable skill set I learned,” Currie says. “I use it every day.”
– Kristal Williams