Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Ag Story

As more and more individuals become farther removed from a farm there becomes a great disconnect between the average consumer and agriculture. Do consumers really know how their food is produced and where it comes from? There is a good chance many consumers misunderstand or have been misinformed on the topics of how and where their food is produced. Due to this disconnect there has been a strong movement of agriculture advocacy as of late. One piece of this advocacy was the production of the film Farmland to tell agriculture's story. This past week we had a screening of Farmland at Hawkeye Community College. The film sparked great discussion after viewing and the conversations that followed were rich in agriculture education. I encourage you to check out the film if you have not had a chance. Check out the Farmland website where you can view trailers and find information on how to view the film.

Discussion Points

  1. What is agriculture advocacy?
  2. Why is agriculture advocacy so important?
  3. How does one advocate for agriculture? What are the different ways to tell the story of agriculture?
  4. How has agriculture advocacy changed over the years?
  5. Do you see agriculture advocacy taking place in your local community? Elaborate on your response.

Further Agricultural Education Challenge

Challenge students to become advocates for agriculture! Create groups of 3 to 4 students. Each group is given the task to tell the great story of agriculture. As a group they must create 3 pieces. They will work together to create a poster, press release for a local paper, and a thirty second radio advertisement to share the benefits of agriculture and the great things happening.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Enough Protein?

Watch the short video below from Elanco that shines light on the growing demand for protein globally and facts regarding production of meat, milk, and eggs. Then use the discussion points and activity below.

Discussion Points and Activity

  1. Have students/group create a list of the points made throughout the video.
    1. What point surprised you the most? Why?
    2. What point made poses the greatest challenge? Why?
  2. Agriculture Education Activity
    1. Split students up into groups of 3-4.
    2. Have each group develop a plan to increase meat, milk, and egg production in a sustainable manner. Encourage students to think outside of the box and assume they have no financial restrictions.
    3. Allow groups approximately 10 minutes to develop their plan and create a poster outlining their plan.
    4. At the conclusion have each group share their plan and discuss options as a class.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

King of Organic Farming Facing Greater Restrictions

New regulations being proposed in the European Union could slow and even decrease organic production. The EU has been known for it's emphasis in organic production. You will find the article: New EU Regulation Could Curb Organic Farming to have information on organic farming in the EU and the new policies that could shape organic production. Read through the article then use the discussion points below to guide your conversations.

Discussion Points

  1. How would the new proposal effect organic farming? Be specific.
  2. Compare the percent of ground in Germany currently used to produce organic products to their goal of 20% of farmland to be utilized for organic production. Do you believe this is an attainable goal? What will allow Germany to achieve this or what will keep them from achieving this?
  3. In the last section of this article Martin Häusling states that organic products need to leave the niche market so they are not a premium product. What do you feel needs to happen to make this a reality? Justify your response.
  4. How is organic farming perceived in your home community? Do you feel these perceptions are an accurate reflection of organic farming?

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Blast of Cold Air

This morning we said goodbye to JeanJean, Kristie, and their family along with our new friends, the Jackrabbits, from South Dakota State University. We cannot thank JeanJean and Kristie enough for their hospitality. We traveled from Caiman to Port au Prince via the Land Cruiser where we boarder a plane for Miami. From there we made our connection to frigid Chicago where we have settled in for the night. The cold has been a rude awakening after a tropical week in Haiti. This has truly been an amazing experience and we all have a lot to reflect on from the past week. Tomorrow we will make the final leg of our trip flying from Chicago to Cedar Rapids.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tales from the Rooftop

It was another great day in Haiti that started on the roof of the university and wrapped up there as well. We kicked things off by scouting out places to mount sensors for a weather station that will collect weather data to be shared by the students at UCCC and Hawkeye. The roof of the university turned out to be a perfect place with spectacular views. Shortly after 9:00 AM we met with the agriculture students one final time. We had an in depth discussion on American agriculture and wrapped up the morning analyzing soil test results from Wednesday and discussing practices to improve soil nutrition.

After lunch the Hawkeye students went to the elementary to help with English class while Dave and I went to the computer lab to replace some computer drives with educational resources for the students of UCCC. After that we finished mounting the sensors for the weather station. Next we loaded up and headed to Saul's farm to see an orange grove, plantains, papayas, along with other various crops growing.

Next we returned to campus where we were able to take in a soccer game between two of the local villages. From there we made our way to the roof top of the university once more to take in the views of Haiti and watch the sun set behind the mountains. Shortly after supper we were treated to an amazing performance by a men's choir from the area. We concluded a great day meeting with JeanJean and Kristie reflecting on our past week in Haiti. Tomorrow will be a long day of travel as we prepare to return home.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

International Year of Soils

It is fitting that this year has been deemed the International Year of Soils by the USDA and today students from Hawkeye worked with students from UCCC in Haiti to test soils. We worked all morning and some of the afternoon testing soils for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It was incredible to see the students reaction from UCCC as they tested soil for the first time!

Their attention to the task at hand was amazing. The highlight of the day was hearing the feedback from students as they reported to JeanJean on their experiences from the day. We heard comments like:"This is the best day ever!" and "We needed this hands-on experience!"

Next we returned to that famous shade tree to enjoy a coke and analyze test results from the day so we can share findings and recommendations with the students tomorrow.

We wrapped up a stellar day by passing along a goat purchased by Iowans with the assistance of the Hawkeye students to a family in the area. They will utilize the goat for milk production for years to come. It's hard to believe that tomorrow will be our last full day in Haiti before returning home.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sampling for Solutions

Today was a spectacular day with the Haitian students of UCCC! We started off with a question and answer session with the students of UCCC regarding agriculture in the United States. The students from Hawkeye did an excellent job sharing practices utilized on their home farms. After our time in the classroom we made our way outside to analyze the soil profile. From there we made our way to the school gardens where students showcased their plots. Each student is given an area to grow crops of their choice. They also get to choose spacing, fertilizer plans, and other practices to compare with each other. The work they are doing is outstanding!

After lunch we returned to the university to have an orientation, led by the students of Hawkeye, on soil sampling. From there we took to the gardens in three separate groups to pull soil samples from each students plot. We decided we were sampling for solutions. Over the last couple days the emphasis from the students is we need to talk about the solutions not the problem! At the conclusion of our sampling session we handed the probes over to the agriculture department at UCCC for future use. Tomorrow we will be testing our samples.

Next we returned to our tractor from Monday. With some oil, fresh fuel, and a little work we had the tractor running! To celebrate we returned to campus and enjoyed fried chicken and mashed potatoes. After dinner we had a discussion on voodoo and how it has affected Haiti as a country both economically and socially.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Palm Tree Mechanics

We kicked off this morning with a trip to an area market, but we were early so that lead to a hike through a tropical setting to some irrigation gardens. We will return to these gardens later in the week to pull soil samples and analyze. We then made our way to a community oven where every four days bread is baked in a brick oven. We then returned to the market area where activity had picked up. Everything was being sold from sandals to vegetables to meat. We even witnessed a livestock auction!

After the market we went tractor shopping. We made our way a couple miles down the road where we found a Veniran tractor that was manufactured in Iran and needed a little TLC so we went to work checking things over. It was decided we needed some additional tools and a battery so the palm tree mechanics decided to return later in the day.

After lunch we had a session with the agriculture students to learn about agriculture practices and determine challenges facing Haitian agriculture. Many interesting points were shared and discussions had. One main point discussed was the need to invest in agriculture from society to the government to farmers. Instead of wealthy Haitians investing in Haitian agriculture they are buying products from other countries and reselling in Haiti.

After our time with students we once again enjoyed a cold pop under a shade tree reflecting on our session with the students. Next it was time to return to our roles as palm tree mechanics. We grabbed a battery, tools, and loaded up in the Land Cruiser. On our way to the Veniran we came across a John Deere 4020, but after inspection found out it was not for sale. Therefore, we found our way back to the Veniran. With a little work we had the engine cranking. We will return with oil tomorrow and see if we can get the engine to fire.

We wrapped up the evening hanging out with students from UCCC playing games, line dancing, and sharing each other's company.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Iowans Fill Haitian Restaurant

It was a great relaxing Sunday in Haiti! We started off watching some children singing in Sunday School and then joined the community for church. We were blown away by the beautiful singers from Haiti and South Dakota. JeanJean shared a great message of getting an education and doing something with it.

After church we headed into the town of Pignon for lunch. We ate at a nice cozy restaurant where we ran into another group from Iowa. Between the two Iowa groups we filled the restaurant and shared great conversation. Following lunch we stopped by a hospital and were able to see how health care works in Haiti. On our way back to Caiman we stopped off at a shack distilling molasses from sugar cane into alcohol that will be sent to Port au Prince and turned into rum.

When we got back to Caiman we had a nice discussion regarding Haitian Agriculture while enjoying ice cold Coke and Sprite under a shade tree. Next we hiked to a cave where the locals collect guano to utilize as fertilizer.

We wrapped up the evening enjoying dinner with a group from South Dakota State University who are with us for the week as they are doing mission work in the area. They even treated us to some swing dancing. Once again check out the Facebook page for pictures from the day.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Touched Down in Haiti!

We have arrived! This morning we flew out of Fort Lauderdale early and arrived in Haiti a little after 8 AM. We spent most of the morning bouncing around in the Land Cruiser making our way from Port au Prince to the community of Caiman where we enjoyed Haitian spaghetti. We were able to take in much of the landscape on our trip as well.

After lunch JeanJean took us out for a sugar cane adventure! We made our way to a small sugar cane plot and processing area. There we observed a farmer pressing the cane juice out of the stalks with a press operated by bulls. After watching a little while we jumped in and tried our luck at pressing sugar cane. From there we checked out a similar iron press. We capped off our sugar cane experience by sampling cane right out of the field.

Following our time with JeanJean, Kristie took us for a tour of campus and gave us some background of how UCI was started. We got to take a look at the demonstration gardens, irrigation plots, and the greenhouse we will work with more through out the week.

Now we are sitting outside under a tree reflecting on our day and preparing for supper. We look forward to another great day tomorrow. Check out our Facebook page later tonight for pictures from the day.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Growing Haitian Agriculture

Today we departed for Haiti! We won't actually arrive in Haiti until Saturday, but our travels started on Friday. Today we made our way from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Chicago, Illinois to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tomorrow morning we make a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Haiti where we will meet the students and faculty at UCCC near Caiman to develop agriculture practices in Haiti. This evening we enjoyed a great meal outside on the patio of the Ale House. The group looks forward to catching just a couple hours of sleep before we are back to the airport and Haiti bound!

Check back over the next couple days to follow our adventures in Haiti!