Beautiful Rwanda

I have been absolutely astounded at how beautiful this country is. I did not have many expectations or did extensive research on what Rwanda is actually like before I came here. So it has been a pleasant surprise! In some ways, it reminds me of Vietnam (for those of you who have traveled there, it may paint a little better picture)…only better and cleaner.

Crops

Rwanda is named the land of 1,000 hills and it is so true. We had a three-hour drive from Kigali to Gisenyi and it was up and down, winding around mountains and hills. Amazingly, we were on a nice paved road for the whole drive! Everywhere we looked there were hills and even volcanoes.

Rwanda has the highest population density of any country in Africa. This means that there are people everywhere and the agriculture is everywhere. The hills and high population pose a unique challenge for agriculture and not a foot of ground goes unused. There are goats and sheep ties on the sides of every road eating grass and crops growing everywhere. This makes for some pretty interesting drives!

View

For our coffee mill visit, we had an hour drive through some fairly remote areas. No paved roads, which were very narrow, and lots of small houses dotted the area. But it was breathtaking. We were going up and down the mountainside with Lake Kivu right next to us. The lake is very clear and well kept too. Rwanda has two heavy rainy seasons every year, so there are many springs and small waterfalls along the way.

Gisenyi

Can’t wait to explore more of the country! (Bonus points to whomever knows what crop is growing in the first picture…)

Lake Kivu

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

Queso Chihuahua

Check out this link to learn more about the history.

http://mazmessenger.com/2011/06/10/the-mennonites-of-mexico/

http://www.theworld.org/2009/12/mexican-mennonites/

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

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