I-CAL participants say ‘farewell’ to Columbia and Panama

As we board our flight back to the States we take one more time to reflect on the past two weeks and what an amazing adventure they have been!

Our journey began in Orlando when twelve college students from across the United States came together excited to learn and experience new ways of life and different agricultural practices.

I-CAL participants head home

Today we started our final day in Colombia and our final day of programming for the 2011 I-CAL trip. Our day started early so that we could make the most of our final day in South America. Our plan included stops at a chicken and pork processing plant, an avocado cooperative, some small furniture buildings, a flower farm and finally a small corn arepa production facility. With five stops and one day to complete them we had a crammed packed schedule. None the less we did have the help of a local woman Catalina who would be showing us a lot of the local agriculture. We began the day with breakfast at a little shop on the corner of a business street.

Former FFA Member Spotlight: NHRA driver Brian Thiel

By Geoffrey Miller

You can complement the FFA emblem in numerous ways, from traditional to timeless. Combined with the trademark national blue corduoroy jackets, the emblem is just that — emblematic of the storied National FFA Organization.

But what about fast? Do you really associate agricultural education’s most-recognized symbol with speed?

Continue reading

>I-CAL: Meat and Dairy Processing in Columbia

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Collegiate agriculture students who were selected to take part in the International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership (I-CAL) program are currently traveling in Columbia and Panama and blogging about their adventures.

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Getting up before 4 a.m. is not usually a college student’s cup of tea, but today we had just such a morning, and were richly rewarded with an aerial view of magnificent mountaintops as our plane landed in Medellin, Colombia. After breakfast at our new hotel, our tours today started off like none other: dressing up like Michelin Men to stay warm as we took a tour of a swine, cattle, and veal processing plant.


When we arrived at the plant, we were greeted with kind handshakes and Colanta branded souvenirs. Colanta, our host for the day, is a Colombian cooperative that handles meat and dairy.

Like many of our experiences as part of this program, there was more than meets the eye with their mission including education, collecting milk from the farms, operating stores, and marketing. Overall, they provide a highly integrated service for farmers from three to 450+ cow operations.

At their processing facility, we dressed in our “Michelin Man” apparel and went through several rounds of decontamination. This sanitization is just one part of their impressive biosecurity measures that are strict enough to achieve approval from the USDA and the Mexican government for exports. We toured the plant backwards: starting with the finished product and working back to the beginning of the process.

After leaving the processing plant, once again in our normal clothes, we headed out to a small dairy farm featuring the familiar Holstein breed of dairy cattle. The cows were treated to lush grass and a nutrient dense feed ration. We observed how some farmers still manage to be profitable milking by hand while others use more modern milking units. To better understand the full dairy production aspect encompassed by the member-owned Colanta, we stopped by one of the cooperative’s Agro-Colanta stores which offers everything from medicines and feed to shoes and fertilizers.

Then, we headed on to the Colanta cheese processing plant just up the road. Once again, we donned some new apparel for biosecurity and after the now familiar scrubbing of the boots and hands, we entered the cheese plant. We were able to watch various varieties in production and even sampled some fresh “queso”. The plant also makes yogurt and powdered milk. (Some types of Colanta cheese are available at Publix and Winn-Dixie stores in south United States and are very tasty!)

We were all tired after our long and educational day, but as we headed back to the hotel, the team realized just how beneficial a cooperative can be to both small and large producers. We also appreciated the processes and efforts that go into putting protein in a diet. Retiring after a full day, we all look forward to a busy tomorrow, our last day touring this beautiful Colombian mountain town.


Lauren Geiger – Kansas State University
Thomas Marten – Southern Illinois University

>Columbia’s pork producers and exotic fruits

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Collegiate agriculture students who were selected to take part in the International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership (I-CAL) program are currently traveling in Columbia and Panama and blogging about their adventures.
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Que dice el cerdo (What does a pig say)? Oink Oink. (ha ha).

Today we visited a local swine producer who raises hogs from farrow to finish outside of Cali, Colombia. Everyone was delighted when we were each handed a pair of blue coveralls, plastic booties and a hair net before entering the facility.


Paradise Farms, the swine operation, is locally owned and operated. A featured technology of the operation is the process used to convert animal waste into compost and heat.

The owner is a member of the Colombian Pork Checkoff and a past president of the Colombian Pork Producers Association. The checkoff program was started in 1994 and now helps members by offering trainings to producers and spending time lobbying to the government.

It was interesting to be able to see the entire process from farrow to the final marketed product in a tropical environment. Paradise Farms is a very profitable and productive business, some production highlights include:

• 5% mortality rate
• 90% conception rate
• Average of 11 piglets/litter
• Each sow will average 28 piglets/year

Upon leaving the swine operation, we made our way to an open-air Colombian produce and meat market. All fresh foods are domestically produced. Did you know that Colombia is home to 1100 different fruits? Many of these fruits were exotic to us, and we even were able to sample a few.

It was a different experience for us to see the fresh meat market as well with meat hanging in the open air. The market allowed us to experience how the majority of local, small scale producers sell their products.

After a quick outdoor lunch and the opportunity to take a look at the neighboring nursery, we visited a local tropical fruit orchard. The most unique fruit we learned about was the Atamoya fruit, which is a new hybrid fruit created from the Naon and the Chirimoya fruits.


Atamoya is a very sweet and expensive fruit because the tree doesn’t begin producing fruit until three to four years of age. This orchard is the only Atamoya producer in the world, giving them competitive advantage in Colombian markets.

Mangos, macadamia nuts and guanabanas are also found in the orchard. The guanabana fruit is about the size of a football, green and covered in spikes. We ended the tour by seeing how macadamia nuts are cleaned, sorted and dried on location.

We finished the day with a relaxing BBQ dinner as tomorrow will be a very early wake-up call when we fly to Medellin, Colombia.

Jarvis Pace – Utah State University
Gracie Weinzierl – Illinois State University

>I-CAL’s 2nd day in Panama

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For the next two weeks, collegiate agriculture students who were selected to take part in the International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership (I-CAL) program will be traveling in Columbia and Panama and blogging about their adventures.

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Buenos Dias everyone! This is the 2011 I-CAL Team reporting Day 2 in Panama City, Panama. We began our day by conducting a short meeting about the U.S. Grain Council efforts abroad, with Mr. Kurt Schultz, Regional Director for U.S. Grains Council in the Panama City, Panama office. The U.S. Grains Council promotes U.S. grains in four different areas. These different areas being; market intelligence, market development, market defense and access. After our informative meeting with Mr. Schultz we were off to see the Panama Canal!



Completed in 1914 the Panama Canal is America’s only trans-oceanic waterway. The Canal is the main transformational hub for International trade in North America. The canal is welcomed each morning by one of the approximately thirty five ships that will pass through the canal each day. This transit generates revenue of approximately five million dollars per day for the country of Panama.

Logistics play a key role in the success of the Panama Canal, large freight ships are able to cross the America’s cheaper and more efficiently, than if they were to travel around the tip of South America. Fright transportation is all about volume economics. Each Panamax ship can contain up to five thousand individual containers, weighing up to twenty two tons each, thus creating high volume low cost freight.

The nationalization of the Panama Canal has led to the emergence of many Panamaian owned freight terminals. Today, we had the opportunity to visit Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT). Logistics, logistics, logistics, is the name of the game for MIT, a highly integrated computer system tracks and documents each individual container that arrives and departs the terminal. MIT has the capability of handling thirty-two containers an hour and eighty-five thousand containers a month.

The workforce is made up of mainly union workers, of which they have an excellent working relationship. MIT charges two hundred and sixty five dollars per container that is removed and put back on a ship. A container never sits more than twenty one days in MIT’s fright yard. The mass of product that is moved within this company was simply amazing to all of us.

Last stop of today was the Desarollo Posicional Elevator, through this company all of Panama’s feed corn and soybean meal is delivered and picked up at this location. We toured the new grain quality lab, to gain a better understanding on why it is important to test grain shipment qualities. We also toured the grain bins and horizontal grain storage facilities. All followed up by a very cultural Panamaian dinner in downtown.

Amazing day here in Panama, until we meet again,

Caleb Wurth- Kanas State University

Kelli Fulkerson- South Dakota State University

>The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

>For the next two weeks, collegiate agriculture students who were selected to take part in the International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership (I-CAL) program will be traveling in Columbia and Panama and blogging about their adventures.

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Buenos Dias, Otra Dez from the 2011 I-CAL Team in Columbia!!

This morning we departed from our beautiful hotel here in the city of Cali, Columbia for the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). CIAT is an international organization sponsored by the United Nations, Rockefeller Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, as well as many others.



Fun fact about an I-CAL team member and the W.K Kellogg Corporation, Miss Kelli Fulkerson’s hometown is twenty minutes from the corporate headquarters which is located in Battle Creek, MI.

The foundation of CIAT mission is to, “Produce Eco-Efficient Agriculture for the Poor.” They fulfill this mission by contributing household and global food security in a way that is eco-efficient, and adds value nutritionally and economically.

Today, while at the Central CIAT office we were able to see four different sectors of the CIAT programs. These included; cassava research and production, bean genomics, the economic analysis program referred to as DAPA, and rice genomics improvement.

Cassava is a starchy tuberous root that is the major source of starch here in South America and all over tropical regions. This starchy tuberous root can be compared in the United States to a potato. Cassava production in South America is vital to their food, fuel and animal feed source production.

Bean and rice genomics are a very large part of CIAT’s research and development. CIAT host’s one of the largest bean DNA libraries in the world. This library comprises over 36,000 different bean varieties. CIAT is the site of the development of several varieties of rice that are utilized worldwide today. We were taught about how these varieties were developed.





DAPA is a large part of CIAT’s perspective on International agriculture. They must look at what the world’s market trends are, and how they are occurring, in order to utilize and develop a strategic method for what new or existing crops they will research. There are five team members that assist with the DAPA program.

The night was ended with a cultural dinner and Salsa dancing. The entire team enjoyed showing our American two left feet. There were many dance instructors that offered their numbers to us for lessons. Great way to spend our first full day in Columbia!

Until we meet again,

Caleb Wurth- Kanas State University

Kelli Fulkerson- South Dakota State University

>National FFA officers honored as guest lecturers

>The National FFA Officer Team spent the last two weeks in College Station, Texas getting ready for this summer’s National Leadership Conferences for State Officers (NLCSO).

They presented the conference to 64 undergraduate students at Texas A&M University who earned credit for their participation in the conference.

The University honored the national officers as guest lecturers.

Seen here with the officers are (left) Ms. Summer Odom, Advisor and Assistant Lecturer and Dr. Lori Moore, Assistant Professor, both faculty in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication.


>Estamos en Cali, Colombia!

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Compared to the population of three million people in Panama, we are excited to experience the different culture of Colombia, a country with a population of 45 million and known for its unique salsa dancing, plantain-based food, ideal climate, beautiful mountains, and world-renowned coffee. International travel tip #1: Arrive at least three hours early for your flight. Although a slow morning in the airport, we all arrived safely in Cali, Colombia, where we were escorted to our very modern and trendy hotel overlooking the entire city of Cali. Today we began the Colombia portion of the program by learning all about the city and therefore established a background about the country’s distinctive culture and rich history. Understanding Colombian culture will prepare us for the week ahead as we dive into the country’s agricultural production practices and commodities. We are excited to be submerged in yet another culture and compare Colombia’s agriculture to that of the United States and Panama. Some of the highlights of today were visiting historical national monuments and statues, traveling up the tallest mountain in the city to overlook Cali, and experiencing some of the diverse cultural food at a restaurant where all meals were plantain-based (a plantain is a mix between a banana and a potato cooked in various ways). Tomorrow we are off to spend the day at the Center for Tropical Research, where we will learn about tropical agricultural production, a sector of the industry that we do not see in the United States.

>Wow, Our Last Day in Panama!

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The program is flying by, and it is hard to believe that we depart for Colombia tomorrow. Many of us stepped outside of our comfort zone as we embarked on our first journey of the day, ziplining through the Panamanian rainforest. Today we had the honor of meeting Kurt’s two young children as the joined us on today’s activities. We enjoyed learning from them about their experiences living in Panama. They were very excited to be the first to begin the tour as they had previously ziplined. It was a fun morning full of pictures by our famous photographer Kurt, rainforest and new experiences.

Next we were off to have lunch at an authentic Panamanian diner located on the Caribbean Sea. During our time in Panama we have had many opportunities to indulge in Panamanian Seafood, which was the specialty of today’s menu. During this time we debriefed and created our own analysis of agriculture in Panama with Kurt.

Then we became the characters of the Pirates of the Caribbean as we visited the historic city of Portobello. During our visit our tour guide Christopher gave us an amazing tour of the city and many details of its history. We learned the ports were strategically placed at the mouth of the Caribbean Sea to protect the city from pirates. However, Henry Morgan was a sly pirate who used small boats to come on to the land and attack the city without any warning. We enjoyed touring and exploring the remains of the forts overlooking the Caribbean.

From this historic city we headed off to a genuine Panamanian market where we had the opportunity to buy some souvenirs and memorabilia from our time in Panama. We had a great last night in Panama. We attended a cultural dinner and show, highlighted by traditional Panamanian dancing and costumes. We have learned a lot about agriculture and the culture of Panama and look forward to our time in Colombia. For the last time, Good Night Panama!

Matthew Barnhill – North Carolina State University

Chelsy Coen – Kansas State University