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?

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>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