Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Laticínios (Dairy Farming)

March 14th finally arrived! The Hawkeye Community College 2017 Brazil Study Abroad group had the opportunity to tour a dairy farm, Piracanjuba Pro-Campo. Visiting the dairy farm was exciting for me coming from a dairy background. The purpose of this dairy farm was to train new farmers on milking, feeding, breeding, and much more. Piracanjuba Pro-Campo had 480 cows, milking 200 of the cows twice a day. The diary managers taught their milking practices in a parlor, similar to what we have in the United States, but everything was open. The location of Brazil we were visiting does not have much dairy farming, but people are willing to learn and start their own farms.

The farm was awesome and I am so fortunate that we got to tour it; it felt like home away from home. Some noticeable differences included the way their milk trucks looked, year round heat, and technology. While there were some contrasts to the form of farming I am use to, the fresh smell of grass was still the sweet, summer smell of Iowa.

I got to share a lot of my stories from my dairy farm with the farm manager. Via live feed, the managers were able to view Holstein cows being milked by a robot. Also, I was able to show them the setup of my dairy barn and other cattle buildings through pictures. The farm workers were very impressed by the modern technology used in Iowa. Showing them my pictures struck up conversations and lots of questions about each other's ways of dairy farming.
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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Soil Testing with the Haitians

While in Haiti, the Hawkeye Community College group had the opportunity to check out the UCC University’s garden. We traveled out to the garden by bus with some students from UCC that came back early from their Christmas break. The garden was about a five minute drive away from the university. Once we arrived we had a little bit of a walk to get to the actual garden. The garden was located by a small stream where they had a small canal to help with watering their garden during the dry season. The garden was 156 square meters according to what one of the students told me. The students were growing all sorts of produce such as onions, sweet pepper, cabbage, kale, and a few other things. The Hawkeye Community College group split up into groups with the students so we could collect soil from the student’s specific part of the garden, as well as talk about any concerns or issues they were having with their crop. Tessa Meyer and I were in a group with four UCC students. We collected soil from two different locations of sweet pepper. We explained to the students why we collected the soil and what we would do with it once we returned to the UCC campus. Once all the soil was collected we headed back to UCC. We were unable to test the soil that day so we had to wait until the next day. The next day the Hawkeye Community College group broke into groups again to work with the students to soil test. We had soil testing kits to test the soil but the students were unsure how to use them so we had the opportunity to teach them. While testing the soil, we found that the soil from their garden had a pH of 7.5, the nitrogen level was low, as well as the phosphorus and potassium levels. We then talked in our group how they could improve their soil and what they could do to change the levels they were receiving. Soil testing with the Haitians was a learning experience for both me and them. It was so rewarding knowing I helped teach them something that can improve their lifestyle little by little.

Giggles and Gifts

One of the most heartwarming parts of the Haiti trip was passing out Christmas gifts to local children at feeding centers. The group members from Hawkeye Community College, our translators, and our host daughter, Kerri, all loaded a bus. We drove to a nearby feeding center with a boxes full of gifts for these very deserving children. When we arrived at the feeding center, the children were all seated inside. The smiles on their faces were priceless when we arrived. They were all so excited to see our group, as well as see us bring in boxes after boxes full of presents for them. There were about 60 kids just sitting at the end of their seats waiting to receive their gifts. Before they were able to get their gifts, Kerri decided it would be a good idea to sing songs and play games with them. Our translators led the children in song. They sang songs such as “Jesus Loves Me”, “Father Abraham”, and a few more. Although the kids were singing these songs in Haitian Creole, we could still understand from the beat. It was such an awesome experience to be able to clap, dance, and sing along, despite the language barrier. After we sang a few songs, we went outside to play games with the kids. The Hawkeye Community College group split up so all the kids would be able to hang out with at least one of us. Tessa Meyer, a sophomore at Hawkeye Community College, and Meghan Bond, an Agriculture Professor, and I split up into a group and taught the children how to play “duck, duck, goose”. The children called it “zwa, zwa, goose” which I later found out just meant “goose, goose, goose”. We played “zwa, zwa, goose” for about a half hour and it was nothing but giggles and smiles from the children the whole time. After 30 minutes passed we all went back into the feeding center to pass out the gifts. Each gift had the picture and name of the child in the bag so we knew who the gift went to. Kerri called out the names of the children and then they formed a line outside so we could take a picture of them with their new gifts so send to the person who sponsored them. When they left the feeding center, all the children were so happy and full of excitement and that was so rewarding to see. Passing out gifts to these children who don’t have much to call their own was so rewarding and humbling and it is not something I will soon forget.

Education in Agriculture is Feeding the Haitians

While in Haiti, the Hawkeye Community College gang took part in an Agriculture Summit. The summit was put on by the Agriculture students and Agriculture Dean at UCCC. The summit lasted two days and was held at the UCCC campus. Over 200 Haitian farmers attended and some walked over an hour just to be in attendance. The summit started at 9:00am and all the farmers were early because they were so excited, as were we! As the farmers arrived, the students from Hawkeye, including myself put name tags on every person in attendance. It was very difficult for us because the Haitians couldn’t speak English, luckily we had great translators. It was so touching to get to know the Haitians name and get to chat with them a bit before the summit started. At the Ag Summit, many different aspects of agriculture were touched on. Agriculture students from UCCC presented their studies that they have been working very hard on. One study was using in season fertilizer on their crops and the results were amazing. Haitian farmers were shocked that this method worked and the Hawkeye Community College gang was amazed at how well their study worked. Two years ago the students corn was only producing 20 bushels/acre, and now with the help on in season fertilizer, their crops are producing 100 bushels/acre. One of the students thanked the crew from Hawkeye Community College for teaching them about using in season fertilizer saying “This has literally changed our lives”. This concept has now been proven to work in Haiti so local farmers are now considering using this to help with their crop production.  The Agriculture Dean at UCCC and Professors from Hawkeye Community College then had a round table discussion about issues and new concepts in agriculture. This lasted for a very long time due to the fact that the Haitians are so eager to learn and solve hunger in their country. It was rewarding to have Haitian farmers learn from us, as well as learning from them. With enough education in agriculture, Haiti will be able to feed their people.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Whole Haitian Experience

Ultimately I enjoyed the trip to Haiti. It was an experience I may not ever get again. I got the opportunity to teach Haitian students about things that I grew up knowing and learning. Not only did I do some teaching, but the Haitians taught me two important things. One being that just because a farming practice works in eastern Iowa, it doesn't necessarily mean it will work anywhere else. The second thing they taught me is probably the most important. The Haitians taught me to not take for granted what I have. I am lucky enough to eat a meal 3 times a day everyday, which not many Haitians have that luxury.
One of my favorite things that I got the opportunity to teach the Haitians was that they can use animal manure as a fertilizer for their plants and add organic matter to their soil. Explaining to the Haitians that that they should pick up the manure from anywhere they see it, even if its on the side of the road. We suggested that they walk around with buckets and scoops to pick it up. At that point they thought us Americans were absolutely crazy that we collect manure. So one days while we were walking to the students gardens we picked up the manure we seen on the way, and added the manure into the soil around their plants. With the Haitians still thinking we were crazy, we continued to tell them that they can use peels from their fruit can be worked into the soil for the same reasons. Not that an orange or banana peel will necessarily  fertilize the plants, but they will add organic matter and help with potassium amount of in the soil. By adding organic matter you can improve the soil conditions to grow a better crop. If they improve their crop, they will have more fruit and vegetable to eat or sell at the market.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Whatever Floats the Haiti Goats!

Being in Haiti was an experience for all of us, no one really prepares you for what you will see or hear, but it’s a great experience to get the opportunity to have. While we were there each one of us took the time to talk to the agriculture students at the university, about the practices of agriculture at home, since it’s A LOT different than it is in Haiti. It worked out perfect, because each one of us Ag students come from different backgrounds, our professor that went on the trip Meghan, and Mitch have great crop farming back ground, Dalton and Kyle come from Hog raising backgrounds. And I was kind of the odd one out, I come from a dairy cow and goat operation.

One day while we were there we went to look at the universities goat herd, which was one thing that I was interested and excited to see how it compares to some in the United States. In all reality what they have or did, doesn’t compare to operations in the U.S, it was basically an open pasture, that didn’t have much grass, with 25 goats. The animal science professor from the university came out to talk to us about the goats, and he grabbed one and then started to show us what he was talking about. On this particular goat he had, she has an infection in her ear, he was then explaining that he was going to treat the infection with some antibiotic. But like any person with a farm animal background, you have to be care what you give an animal, because if that animal is pregnant that medicine you give it could abort the baby she is carrying.  With this goat, the professor started to explain how they preg check, which is not the most ethical thing, and something that no one in the United States would ever think about doing to their animals. They preg check by, cutting off the goats airways, and waiting for its 2 back legs to shake, once they begin to shake, they let go so the goat doesn’t pass out. When they let go, if the goats pee’s its pregnant and if it doesn’t she open. Me being from a dairy goat operation, I didn’t believe in the science of it and told him I wouldn’t try that on the goats at home. But whatever was Floating his Goat!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Fianl Thoughts From Costa Rica

My final month here in Costa Rica has been far more eventful than I could have imagined. The first weekend I took my first ferry ride from Puntarenas to Paquera. It was a different experience to take a boat as public transport. Once we arrived in Paquera we had a two kilometers hike to the beach to see the phenomenal bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is when living organisms naturally produce light. It occurs widely in marine life and in some invertebrate animals, such as fireflies. Because the bioluminescence is activated by touch, we waited until nightfall and kayaked through the water. As the paddles of the kayak and our hands touched the water, the brightness increased. Running my hand through the water and seeing it light up made me feel a sense of power, as if I had some sort of “magic touch.”
First time riding on a ferry and enjoying phenomenon of bioluminescence

  The next day our group traveled to Montezuma. There were many people there, both tourists and locals. We all camped on the beach and my friends and I met a local man who took me fishing the next day. We went fishing in Playa Tambor, about 15 kilometers away from Montezuma. The fishing spot was populated by locals only and I enjoyed seeing how Ticos and Ticas spend their weekends.
Camping on a beach in  Montezuma

Enjoying fishing with  my new friend in Playa Tambor

The following weekend we traveled to Monteverde, approximately 140 kilometers from San José. This weekend was full of adrenaline-pumping excitement. The first day we all went zip lining and on a Tarzan Swing. I had never been on a Tarzan Swing before and that was an extremely exhilarating experience. The next day was nerve-wracking. We went bungee jumping from the tallest bungee jump in Central America! It took me four minutes to gather the courage to finally jump! During the long ride back to Chepe (what the locals call San José) I could still feel my heart racing.

Monkeying around after bungee jumping. What a nerve-wracking experience!

That week my friends and I went to una partido de fútbol (soccer game). I was supporting Saprissa, my Mama Tica’s favorite team. The game ended in a draw between Saprissa and Limón. I enjoyed talking to other fans of the game and bantering with fans of the opposite team. As my Spanish improves, I am more confident and am able to showcase my personality in both English and Español.

¡Vamos Saprissa!

My final weekend here was spent entirely with my host family and roommate. We all went out to dinner at a local restaurant and had a lovely last supper. Realizing that I have to leave the people I have called family over the last semester has taken a bit of an emotional toll on me. I have grown so attached to the people and even pets. The relationships I have made over the last semester will be carried in a special place in my heart forever. Although I will miss Costa Rica, I am excited to return to my home in Iowa
La cena final con mi familia