I-CAL 2014: Days 8-10 in Japan

Editor’s Note: The International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership (I-CAL) program travels overseas to learn about global agriculture and international marketing. The group of 12 Collegiate FFA members departed the U.S. on May 20 for a 10-day tour of Japan where they engaged U.S. Embassy officials and government leaders; toured feed mills, animal markets, small farms and livestock operations; and toured food processing plants, among other activities. ICAL 2014 is made possible through support from The Grains Foundation.

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Day 8 – Albert’s farm

5/28/14

Today we had the opportunity to visit a rice farmer named Albert.

Albert showed us a friend’s rice farm that is located on a mountain side. Planting in the mountains requires terrace paddies – or multiple flooded fields built in step on a hillside that requires water to filter down from other fields. Terrace paddy farming is high risk because farmers depend upon other fields out of their control for irrigation. The limited space on the terrace makes planting and harvesting with equipment near impossible. The price of rice is continuing to drop here, making it more difficult to make it ones only source of income. However, rice from the mountains often tastes better because of the cold water used from the mountains. Continue reading

I-CAL 2014: Days 4-7 in Japan

Editor’s Note: The International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership (I-CAL) program travels overseas to learn about global agriculture and international marketing. The group of 12 Collegiate FFA members departed the U.S. on May 20 for a 10-day tour of Japan where they engaged U.S. Embassy officials and government leaders; toured feed mills, animal markets, small farms and livestock operations; and toured food processing plants, among other activities. ICAL 2014 is made possible through support from The Grains Foundation.

Day 4 – Tokyo, Hama-rikyu Gardens, Ginza Street

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5/24/14

Today we had the opportunity to sight-see around Tokyo and learn more about their cultural heritage. Japan’s culture is very unique and rich in history. We started the day off by walking from the hotel to the Emperor’s Palace which was in the center of Tokyo. The Palace was extremely beautiful surrounded by trees and colorful gardens. We walked to the hill located on the palace grounds which gave us a scenic view of Tokyo. It was exciting to be able to see an overview of the city and its many sights. Continue reading

ICAL 2014: Days 1-3 in Japan

Editor’s Note: The International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership (I-CAL) program travels overseas to learn about global agriculture and international marketing. The group of 12 Collegiate FFA members departed the U.S. on May 20 for a 10-day tour of Japan where they engaged U.S. Embassy officials and government leaders; toured feed mills, animal markets, small farms and livestock operations; and toured food processing plants, among other activities. ICAL 2014 is made possible through support from The Grains Foundation.

Day 1 – We’re in Japan!

The ICAL 2014 group prior to departure.

The ICAL 2014 group prior to departure.

Our flight went really well. It was about 12-hours and during the flight we flew over the Alaskan Islands, which was pretty cool! We were on one of United Airlines’ new planes called the Dreamliner and it was phenomenal. Even the food was tasty!

We met Tommy Hamamoto, Director of the US Grains Council in Japan, at the airport and drove about 1-hr to Tokyo from Narita. It was rainy and cloudy, which seems to be a common trend here in Japan.

We drove past Disneyland, Tokyo and over a couple of waterways that led to the Pacific Ocean. It’s strange to think that we’re now on the opposite side of the ocean from the U.S. Continue reading

I-CAL Perspectives: It’s a Small World

College students who participate in the International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership (I-CAL) program travel overseas to learn about global agriculture and international marketing. During the two-week annual program, students tour international components of agriculture like feed mills, open air feed and animal markets, livestock operations and food processing plants. Now returned from their June 2013 trip to Brazil, they are providing regular updates to put their experiences in perspective.

This dispatch comes from Kari Weis:

It is hard to believe that a month ago our I-CAL group was boarding a plane for Brazil. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about the trip and the experiences while there. During the 10 days, I toured the city of Rio de Janeiro and the beautiful countryside and learned many Brazilian cultural ways. I was able to compare their agricultural methods to that of the United States. The experiences of sugarcane harvesting, swine and flower production in Brazil will be forever remembered.

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I-CAL: Rio de Janeiro

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As the new day began, we were reminded that our time here in Brazil is limited.  Our final destination, Rio de Janeiro is our home for the next three days.  This morning a few of us woke up bright and early to attend a traditional Catholic mass.  The little church was elegantly decorated with stain glass windows lining the walls and carved pillars throughout ceremonial space.  The mass was entirely in Portuguese, and those who went received a glimpse into a part of the Brazilian culture.

Later on, everyone enjoyed a cup of freshly squeezed juice, cheese bread, a wide variety of fruits, and of course coffee.  After breakfast, the ICAL team made their way down to Copacabana Beach to enjoy the morning sun and a couple of waves.  We did not try our hand in surfing, but we let the waves push us around.  Who would have thought, the ocean was salty.  Overall, the morning was absolutely a blast, and we experience the people of Rio playing volleyball, lounging on the beach, and competing in soccer games.

As 12:30 rolled around, we showered and got ready for the day.  Our first stop was the “Hippie Fair.”  A collection of artisans set up small booths to peddle their handmade jewelry, leather, and canvas paintings.  As we walked around, we experienced the smells of traditional desserts.  Furthermore, we gained an appreciation for the craftsmanship of the pieces that were being sold.

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I-CAL: Roses and Pigs

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Today was all about the smells of agriculture, from roses to pigs. We started off another amazing day in Brazil after departing our hotel in Barbacena and headed to the award winning Sao Sebastiao flower nursery.

We were greeted by the general manager who started off our tour by showing us the various greenhouses used in rose production. Sao Sebastiao was established 15 years ago and is a seven hectare, family owned, operation. They run 22 greenhouses to cultivate their high quality roses.

After exploring greenhouses we saw the warehouse where they package flowers for transportation and do flower arrangements. We also got to look inside one of their large storage coolers full of roses of various varieties.

We learned that the length of the stem rather than the quality of the flower determines the worth of a rose. In 2011 Sao Sebastiao didn’t export any flowers, but they have exported to Portugal in the past. We learned that the mark up on roses in Brazil is three or four times the whole sale price.

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I-CAL: World’s Largest Open Air Museum

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This morning we woke up to one of the most scenic views. Looking out of our bungalows we saw dairy cows grazing on pasture over the mountain side, and palm and lime trees bordered the brick pathways leading up to our doors.

After another breakfast comprised of delicious fruits, breads and coffee, we traveled 10 minutes from Brumadinho to Inhotim, the world’s largest open air museum.

This outdoor museum was created for two purposes, to address environmental education and showcase contemporary art. Prior to being a museum, the land was a large farm. Inhotim is now owned by the Brazilian government.  It employs over 1,000 employees and contains more than 4,500 native and exotic plant species, making itphoto2 the largest collection of living species in Brazil. It is also home to the greatest palm tree collection in the world.

Sabrina, our tour guide, lead us around stoned pathways through the botanical beauties, and over bridges, which were filled with vibrant fish. We saw a variety of plants such as, the King’s flower, water bananas and the most important palm variety in Brazil, the Imperial Palm.

We toured a few of the contemporary art galleries, which featured pieces like the Red Room and Glove Trotter by Cildo Meireles. Everyone walked away feeling inspired by the art!

From there we boarded the bus for a four hour trek south to Barbacena. Here we are staying at SENCA Grogoto, a hotel which trains students for the hotel and restaurant management track. It hosts many international students and most of us ended the night relaxing in the hot tub!

I-CAL: Ouro Preto, Mina Jeje Mine

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Yet again what a wonderful day in Brazil!

After our traditional hotel breakfast of fruit, cheese, bread and of course coffee, we left our wonderful, slightly under construction hotel in Ponte Nova for the beautiful historical city of Ouro Preto. Upon arrival we enjoyed, yet again, more coffee and some decedent hot chocolate at Cafeteria E Livraria which opened up to the bustling cobble stone streets. We were joined by a tour guide to help show us around the charming city founded in the 1600s which used to be the nation’s capital. The city is known for its mining, especially gold, as the state of Minas Gerais itself translates to “general mines”.

After our delicious cups of hot chocolate and coffee, we headed to the historic military church of Ouro Preto.  In the city there are many churches, which served the different social and racial classes of the past.  For example, there was a rich Portuguese church and a poor Portuguese church.  The church we visited, known as São Francisco de Assis was built from 1765-1810.  The intricately designed artwork was finished by 1825.  In the church, there are countless paintings, statues, and engravings some completed miraculously by a famous crippled artist, Aleijadinho.  Along with the beautiful relief artwork, which gave the impression that the sculpted material was raised above the background, there was gold galore!  Next we headed to a mine of Ouro Preto.

Our tour guide took us through the winding, steep cobblestone roads to the Mina Jeje Mine, Mina De Euro Sec XVlll, one of the first mines in the city. There we learned that a whole family, even down to the 5 year-old, could be paid labor in the mines.  We also learned about different minerals used for paint, which were very vibrant copper toned colors.  We ventured further into the mine with our little miner caps to see the first site where they struck gold!  It was also interesting to learn that there were many jewels found before the miners actually struck gold.  The jewels and gold found their way to places like the Philippines and China where they were likely used in porcelain and jewelry.

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