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.
In Panama we got our first glimpse into Tropical Agriculture. Panamanians were very friendly and welcoming people and anxious to teach us about their way of life. We toured many different aspects of the agricultural industry, including a coffee farm, shrimp production facility, agricultural education and experienced global trade first hand when we visited the Panama Canal. We learned how they dealt with issues like deforestation of the rainforest, having a small population (only 3 million in the whole country) and competing with larger nations.
After spending an amazing week in Panama full of new experiences and a new knowledge of agriculture the I-CAL team and Grains Council Staff made our way to Colombia. In Colombia we found ourselves amazed at the modernization, use of cooperatives and vertical integration found in production agriculture. With several busy days in the cities of Cali and Medellian we experienced open air markets, a dairy cooperative, swine and poultry vertical integration, floral production, fruit production and experienced a culture that offered more than we had expected.
Over the past two weeks friendships have been made, a new view on agriculture developed and a broader perspective of global agriculture have made for an experience that each of us will remember for a lifetime.
We would like to take one final time to say “Thank You” to the US Grains Council and the Grains Foundation and the National FFA Organization for making this program possible.
As the twelve members of the I-CAL Team, The Grains Council and National FFA Staff return to our respective locations we know that we have a common thread among us as well as with many other people in this small world. No matter where you go one thing is for sure you can always find someone involved in agriculture. Despite all of the differences in agriculture around the world one thing stays the same, in the words of a Colombian farmer, “Trabajamos con el sol y servimos con el Corazon”. We work with the sun and we serve with the heart.
For our final time from Colombia, Panama and Orlando, Florida, Gracias and Ciao!
Matt Barnhill, North Carolina State University
Chelsy Coen, Kansas State University