Badger For Life

Yikes…I’ve been VERY bad about keeping up with my blog. But in my defense, I’ve been keeping pretty busy lately 🙂

Last month, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a Bachelor of Science and major in Life Sciences Communication. It was a wonderful weekend – my family was all in town for the event and Madison actually had PERFECT weather (that almost never happens!).

I’ve had so many great times in Madison, great memories and made wonderful friends and connections. I’ll miss verything about living in Madison – pregaming on Badger gamedays, Saturday farmer’s market, drinking beer on the MU terrace and of course…the many great bars and nightlife of the city 🙂

Aside from the city, the university has given me so many things – my LSC major, active student organizations (National Agri-Marketing Association and Association of Women in Agriculture) and a beautiful campus to walk on everyday. I’m very grateful for the friends (and boyfriend), mentors and connections that I’ve gained over the last four year…even though I’ve left the city, those people will stay a part of my life!

Now that I’m all done with my undergraduate career…it’s time to get my Master’s degree! But before I move to College Station to attend Texas A&M University, I’ll be backpacking through Europe with Aimee, a friend from high school. More updates to come on that trip later!


The Borlaug Institute

Recently, I’ve been accepted into Texas A&M University (yay!) and one of the great things about that school is that The Borlaug Institute is housed there. Most people that are familiar with agriculture have probably heard of a man named Dr. Norman E Borlaug (1914-2009).

Dr. Borlaug has earned the title “The father of the Green Revolution.” His passion was in agronomy and humanitarianism, which earned him many awards including a Noble Peace Prize. Dr. Borlaug worked with creating new varieties of wheat, making them higher-yielding. This seems like a simple feat, but the long-term results have been more food security and food supply for countries such as Mexico, India and Pakistan. While Dr. Borlaug didn’t do this alone and isn’t the only one to credit for such improvements, he is highly regarded in the field and had a major impact.

The Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University is building off of Dr. Borlaug’s legacy and work. Their goal is to help students, faculty and others to work and make an impact in international agriculture. They work to implement programs around the world to help improve food systems and security, offer training programs to professionals and serve as a resource to everyone.

The Borlaug Institute offers many programs around the world, from the Peace Corp program to programs for high school students. By working with the institute, you will gain knowledge and probably travel experiences that will help to educate you and help others.

The work that the institute does is great and something that I hope to be a part of in the fall when I start school 🙂

The institute also is a great place to stay up-to-date on news in international agriculture through their Twitter (@BorlaugTAMU) and through their blog (Dispatches from the Globe). I highly recommend that you start to follow either (or both) of those resources.

Learn more here.

Jardín Botánico Lankester

Another beautiful place we visited on our trip to Costa Rica, was the Jardín Botánico Lankester in Cartago. This botanical garden is part of the University of Costa Rica to promote enjoyment, conservation and education. They focus on sustainable use of the epiphytic flora through scientific research, horticulture, and environmental education and pay special attention to orchids.

I don’t know much about different types of flowers and plants, but this was a really beautiful place to visit and spend an afternoon. It’s open to the public and you can even purchase flower cuttings to take home and plant yourself. Enjoy!

Linda Vista

During my two-week trip to Costa Rica, we visited several very interesting horticulture companies, gardens, conservatories etc. The first place was in Linda Vista, Costa Rica. This is the location of a growing and production facility for Ball Horticultural Company. Ball is the leading North American producer and distributor of ornamental plants and their seeds.

One of Ball’s largest facilities is the one that I visited in Linda Vista.It’s a truly beautiful place and was very interesting to watch the workers trim and breed the ornamental plants and flowers.

Hope you enjoy some of my photographs from the visit!

Ball Hort

Ball Hort

Ball Hort

Costa Rican Overview

Last year, I was able to take a two week class trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. We were able to drive through most of the country, visit with locals and learn about the different agricultural products those countries have to offer. It was an incredible trip and opportunity to visit such beautiful countries.

Costa Rica

Map of Costa Rica

The service and tourism industry has taken over Costa Rica recently. The service industry now represents over 70% of their national GDP with industrial at 22% and agriculture coming in third with only 6%. While this is a big change and a dramatic decrease in the agricultural GPD, 14% of the workforce is in agriculture.

The main exports and products that Costa Rica produces won’t be a shock to anyone – coffee, bananas, pineapples, sugar and ornamental plants. Familiar companies such as Dole, Del Monte, Ball Horticulture and Grupo Acon play large roles in production across the state.

Check back later this week to see more of Costa Rica and its beautiful products 🙂

I bet you didn’t know this about Mexico

I’ve recently learned something pretty fascinating about rural Mexico. There’s a heavy presence of Mennonites! And they farm (and make really good cheese) 🙂

The northern regions on Mexico is where the Mennonite communities have settled  since the 1920s – Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Durango and several others. You will find them speaking Spanish, some English and even German in some communities.

The Mennonites have helped to increase the farming in Northern Mexico growing corn, beans, oats and wheat. They also have greatly increased the milk production in Mexico (Chihuahua is the leading state in the country) through having several large dairy herds. Many of the herds have several thousand head of cattle. Right now, their production is around 100,000 gallons of milk each day!

Dairy farm

Mennonite dairy farm, La Honda, in Zacatacas, Mexico

The thing they are well-known for in Mexico is their cheese. They have created their own special variety, called “queso chihuahua” and produce 155,000 pounds of it each day. This cheese is similar to a mild, white cheddar or monterey jack. This cheese is a staple in many of the meals in Mexico, especially in the northern states. Locals will send it to their family in the U.S. and visitors will always try to take a few pounds back home.


Queso Chihuahua

Check out this link to learn more about the history.

Agriculture in Mexico

When I think of Mexico, agriculture is definitely not the first thing that crosses my mind. I think of sandy beaches, blue water, margaritas and sunbathing. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

But did you know that Mexico is the number one producer of avocados, limes (and lime oil), lemons, onions/chayote and sunflower seeds? They are also heavy producers of papaya, oranges, mangoes, whole beans, fennel, asparagus, peppers, corn and chicken meat.


Lime production in Mexico

Mexico may be a leading producer in several products, but agriculture is still not a leading industry in the country. The agriculture sector accounts for only 5% of their GDP and employs 13% of the work force.

Where are the farms?

Many of the traditional agriculture farms – beef, dairy, corn etc – are grown in central to northern Mexico. Three very popular areas for farming and especially exporting are Culiacán, Bajío and San Quintín.

The more tropical products – lemons, limes, oranges – are grown in the southern regions. More specifically, Michoacán and Colima are the two most important states for the horticulture.

Mexico map

Map of Mexico

World Dairy Expo

I can’t talk about international agriculture without mentioning one of the biggest events in the dairy industry – World Dairy Expo.

Most everyone is familiar with the AKC dog shows, right? Well dogs aren’t the only animal that can be shown – cattle, horses, goats, cats etc – all have similar events. In the dairy industry, the biggest event of the year is World Dairy Expo (WDE). Held in Madison, Wisconsin, WDE has more than 1,000 people bring their dairy cattle to show, in 2011 there were over 2,000 animals on the grounds! Having a class winning animal or even the Supreme Champion is the highest honor in the dairy show circuit.

International Holstein Show (photo via Shannon Hayes)

But World Dairy Expo is so much more than just showing cattle. This is where farmers and industry experts interact and learn about the new technologies and breakthroughs in the agricultural industries. Companies and researchers from around the world set up booths in the convention center to educate and make business connections. If you have a new product, WDE is the best possible place to launch it.

Not only do farmers and agricultural companies attend, World Dairy Expo is a great place for families and schools to visit and learn something new. Educational information, tours and exhibits are used to support agricultural education. In 2011, over 68,000 people attended WDE over a 4 day period.

Educating a school group (photo via WDE)

Since World Dairy Expo is the biggest event of the year, it’s only fitting that this is the event that international visitors will want to attend. Every year, WDE hosts educators, businessmen, companies and researchers from a variety of countries. These international guests use WDE as their time to learn from the industry’s best and gain new insight to take home with them. Last year, there were over 2,500 international guests from 90 countries!

World Dairy Expo is my favorite time of the year and takes place in my backyard (Madison). It’s truly a special event in the agriculture industry and it’s like the Christmas of the dairy industry. It’s a place to see old friends, make new friends and learn something new.

Serena (the cow) and me at World Dairy Expo

America’s Dairyland

I can’t start to talk about agriculture around the world without first talking about the agriculture in my own state….Wisconsin!

Everyone knows of Wisconsin as the Dairy State, which leading the country with the highest number of farms at around 78,000. But Wisconsin has more than just cows, agriculture bring over $59 billion in economic activity, that’s right, BILLION. And here’s how we do it.

Wisconsin is the nation’s leading producer of cranberries, ginseng and snap peas. Not just leading, but dominating the field. We produce over 97% of the nation’s ginseng and over 50% of the cranberries. In addition to those foods, oats, cherries, potatoes, carrots and sweet corn rank high in the state. That’s a lot of food!


Cranberry Production in Central Wisconsin

But, going back to the name, Dairy State, Wisconsin has the highest number of dairy goats in the country, 46,000. And we like cheese here – producing 25% of our nation’s cheese supply. Of the $59 billion that agriculture brings to the state, dairy is leading the pack, bringing over $26 billion! To put that in perspective, Wisconsin dairy generates more income than Florida citrus, Idaho potatoes, Washington apples, Maine lobsters and California raisins combined.


Wisconsin's Dairy

Wisconsin farmers are hard at work year round in the state, working to produce food for the local farmers market and for export.