Sunday, June 22, 2014

Denmark: Return Home and a Further Challenge

It was an amazing time with an amazing group in Denmark! We made it back to Iowa Friday evening after a nice sprint trough the O'Hare airport in Chicago to catch our last flight. It was a week of learning that happened in both formal and informal settings. We had numerous tours and presentations scheduled that gave us an overall picture of what Danish Agriculture is all about. The informal learning can make some of the biggest impressions on us and this happened while gathered around the dinner table or an impromptu coffee break along side the road that spilled over into a roadside field.

In a discussion that I had with one of our hosts, Henrik, we discussed the two main purposes for taking part in a study abroad experience. Here are the two reasons he shared below:
  1. To learn about the practices and ways of another country and culture.
  2. Challenge yourself to think about the way you are currently doing things in your home country. Can things be improved?
I know that all who traveled to Denmark have number one covered! Our hosts did an excellent job of showcasing Danish Agriculture. I hope that we all can take time to reflect on number two. I challenge all that traveled to Denmark to think about the practices and methods we observed abroad and reflect on agriculture here in the United States. What can we learn from our time in Denmark?

I would like to thank Henrik and Ove from the Green Academy for an awesome week! You guys are amazing! We learned so much and hope to return in the future!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Danish Trade and Market Regulations

This morning we made our way to Copenhagen via train. We arrived to Copenhagen shortly after noon and made our way to meet with the Danish Agriculture and Food Council. Over lunch we discussed Danish Agriculture and got into many hot topics being discussed in legislation and trade in agriculture as it relates to Denmark and the European Union. We got into discussions on GMO's and the EU's view. It was stated every time the EU tests GMO's they are safe and they do not see the EU banning GMO crops. When it comes down to it European's buying habits are the same as the rest of the world: "They want a cheap food supply." We also had a very interesting discussion relating to the longevity of the EU and it's future role.

After our time with the Danish Agriculture and Food Council we checked in at our hotel before exploring the city of Copenhagen. We took a boat tour of the city and enjoyed a walk through the pedestrian area. For dinner we made our way to Tivoli which is the oldest amusement park in the world. We enjoyed a great dinner and time visiting Tivoli. In the morning we will board a plane for home. It is hard to believe that our time in Denmark is coming to a close.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Getting Advice and Stepping Back in Time

We started off our last full day in the Aarhus area by traveling to the Djursland Farmers' Advisory Centre. We started by getting a tour of the office areas before meeting in a conference room to discuss the purpose and services offered by the local advisory centre. This is a centre that is owned by the farmers and funded by no one else so the farmers best interest is always a priority. They provide support from production practices to fertilizer plans to building plans. They even have access to members financial records in order to advise farmers to maximize profits. Next we made our way to the fields across the road to take a look at different wheat variety test plots and learn how they utilize the plots to advise farmers, before returning to the conference room to discuss Danish Agriculture. One very interesting fact was that there has always been a limit on the amount of milk that could be produced in the past in Denmark. This quota will disappear in the next year and production will be unlimited.

For lunch we made our way to Gammel Estrup which is a large manor that has been around for over 800 years. We enjoyed a traditional Danish meal before exploring the Manor and grounds. Upon the grounds was an agriculture museum that told the history of agriculture from practices, machinery, and types of crops and livestock.

Next we headed to a local tractor dealer for some tractor and equipment shopping of the toy variety before returning to Aarhus for shopping and exploration. We wrapped up the evening with a farewell dinner at Green Academy. It has truly been a great experience spending time at Green Academy and in the surrounding area. Tomorrow we will be making our way to Copenhagen. Check our Facebook page often for updated photos.

Research, Cattle, and Hogs

This morning we made our way to Foulum. We were a little ahead of schedule so we swung into an older manor that dated back to the 1300's to explore. Following that we spent the morning at the Centre for Research in Food and Agriculture at Aarhus University. This is the largest research facility in Denmark. It is a very large campus and we only saw a small portion of their research facilities. We started off with an introduction to the facilities and then made our way to the fields where they were growing a variety of organic crops in test plots along with different fuel crops. Next we made our way to the Biogas research area. They shared how they are working on combining plant material with slurry for a more efficient energy source. From there we made our way to their mink farm. We discussed quality and tightness of fur along with production practices. To wrap up our morning with the Centre for Research and Agriculture we visited an area that was researching dairy cattle using fistulated cattle.

Following lunch we made our way to a dairy cattle research facility that worked both with farmers and the Centre for Research in Food and Agriculture to combine the research done at the Centre with practical applications to greater assist the farmers. They had many robotic systems including a feeding system that adjusted rations every three weeks for specified groups of cattle. They were working with many innovative ideas. One included separating water from the milk. This can be done on milk that is not being used for drinking milk. They can then reuse the water for drinking water for the cattle.

After our time near Foulum we returned to nearby Aarhus to visit a very progressive hog operation. This farm had 1,450 sows. They farrow and sell the piglets after 4 weeks. They were using practices and procedures that are above the standard of the EU in order to stay ahead of the curve and receive a premium for piglets they sell as they meet UK standards as well. They also have a biogas facility on site for manure handling. We were able to tour all aspects of their hog facility.

It was another great day learning about Danish agriculture. Look forward to our tours tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"We best leave now for what is best for our health!"

Today we jumped right into animal agriculture in Denmark. We started off the day at the Danish Crown pork processing facility. Danish Crown is known as the most modern slaughter facility in the world. They are a cooperative owned by the farmers that processes around 15 million hogs per year. We were able to observe and discuss from start to finish the processing of hogs at Danish Crown. Their pork is enjoyed in Denmark as well as around the world. There is a very good chance that if you have enjoyed baby back ribs in the United States they came from Danish Crown. To wrap up our time at Danish Crown we enjoyed a pork lunch. The delicious pork cut came from the back leg of the hog.

Next we made our way to a dairy farm named Vejlskovgard. This is a dairy that is on the cutting edge and very forward thinking. A prime example of this is the fact that the young farmer we met, who gave us the tour, was planning on meeting with a group of farmers his age tomorrow to discuss management and financial practices for 10 hours. This group meets 5-6 times a year. They are milking around 450 cows. Their barns and milking areas have a very modern design that let lots of light and airflow into the buildings. Robots are a major part of their operation. They had robotic milkers, feed pushers, manure pushers, and bedders. Visitors are welcomed to their farm at any time without an appointment. They are always willing to share what they are doing with others.

After our visit to the dairy we made our way to an organic farm growing crops from wheat to carrots to horse beans (a substitute for soybeans that is not as high in protein) along with milking 500 dairy goats. They had about 1,000 acres of crop ground with additional forest area. Some of the buildings on the manor dated back to the 1300's. We checked out the goat milking parlor that was a carousel set-up and then made our way to the fields to examine the many diverse crops. We had a discussion on the many challenges they have faced in organic production.

We wrapped up the evening at Henrik and Maria's home where we had a spectacular dinner and shared great conversation. There were so many sweets for dessert that it was stated, "We best leave now for what is best for our health!"

Check out our Facebook page for photos.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Friends and Seafood

Today was a day of seafood and exploring with great friends! We started the morning with a trip to the local bakery for breakfast where we all enjoyed traditional Danish baked goods. From there we loaded up the vehicles and drove down to Esbjerg where we took a ferry over to the island of Fano. When we arrived in Fano we started by exploring a line of bunkers occupied by the Germans during World War II some 75 years ago. There are 1,000's of these bunkers all along the west coast of Denmark.

After our time in the bunkers we met at Ove and Else-Marie's home in Nordby. There we relaxed and enjoyed a lunch of herring, salmon, shrimp and many sides. After lunch we made our way through Nordby and headed to the beach on the west side of Fano. We took sometime to walk the beach and into the ocean. Following our time on the beach we made our way to a small village before returning to Nordby.

In Nordby we made our way to a cozy little restaurant where we enjoyed a local fish dish called "Bakskuld." This is a flat fish that is dried, salted, and smoked. After a great dinner we boarder the ferry to return to the mainland and Green Academy.

Be sure to check out the new photos via our Facebook page. Tomorrow we will dive into Danish Agriculture visiting a packing plant and several farms.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Discovering Agriculture and Aarhus

Today was a great first full day in Denmark! After a great night of sleep we met to discuss "The Danish Way" and the make up of Danish Education and the Green Academy. We heard about the term "hygge." This is a feeling that can be felt in Denmark often and is a feeling of joy, caring, and happiness with friends. "Hygge" is a great theme for our trip that we look forward to experiencing often!

Following these two presentations we took a tour of campus. We got to see many things including classrooms, greenhouses stocked with bedding plants to hydroponic tomatoes, and a variety of outdoor labs. Next we returned to the classroom for a short introduction to Danish Agriculture. For the small country size Denmark is a major player in agriculture.

After lunch we toured the Green Academy farm. This models a traditional Danish farm with livestock and crops. We got to explore all aspects of the farm. Next we made our way to downtown and old town Aarhus. We had a great time in the city before enjoying a nice steak dinner near the harbor. We wrapped up a great day with enjoying dessert and visiting in our lounge area.

Remember to check out our Facebook page for pictures from the day!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

It has been a whirlwind of traveling the past day/days. We boarded a plane Thursday afternoon in Cedar Rapids and then made stops in Chicago and Frankfurt, Germany before making our way to Copenhagen, Denmark. Once we reached Copenhagen we jumped on a train for three hours before arriving in Aarhus where we loaded up in a van and car before making our way to nearby Green Academy in Beder. The train ride provided a great time to get a lay of the land and see what crops and livestock were being raised. It, also, provided time for a quick power nap.

Once we arrived at Green Academy Friday afternoon we had time to get settled in to our apartments before heading to the canteen for dinner. We enjoyed a meal of Danish Beef which is similar to an over sized hamburger with a gravy sauce and sides. Following dinner we meet with Henrik and Ove from Green Academy to discuss the outstanding program for the next week!

Tomorrow we will dive into things with a meeting Saturday morning discussing Danish Agriculture and Agriculture Education along with getting a tour of the campus facilities and farm. Following lunch we will make our way to downtown and old town Aarhus before enjoying a nice steak dinner. There was a lot of great discussion and informal learning today! I can not wait to see what we will learn over the next week!

Having technical difficulties uploading photos. Check our Facebook page for photos.

Denmark Bound!

On Thursday, June 12, 2014 we are boarding a plane on our way to Denmark to explore agriculture! While in Denmark we will be hosted by Green Academy in Aarhus, Denmark. While in Denmark we will visit a variety of agriculture sectors. We will visit farms, a packing house, research facilities, agriculture advisory service, Green Academy campus, and take in local sites just to name a few!

We are traveling with a very diverse group. Our group will be made up of high school educators, students from Iowa State University, and even include a farmer/Iowa Farm Bureau county board member. Starting on Friday check for daily blog updates about our time studying Danish Agriculture!