The Netherlands: Final Thoughts

As a kid, I remember being absolutely mesmerized by an airplane flying overhead. I didn’t experience an altitude change of my own until I was in junior high. Flying has since changed to an experience of being awestruck by the world passing slowly below. A little fish in an ever-expanding pond is how I feel after flying more than 12,000 miles in the last 21 days; I imagine my travel companions feel the same.

I am not sure it is even possible to put into words how amazing our two weeks in the Netherlands truly was. We learned about the minute details of developing seeds for consumption and eye-candy, how the Dutch people are breaching the consumer-producer gap and what it means to have governmental policy dictating agricultural practices far more than any of the fellows have ever known.

Dutch culture is all about efficiency, collaboration and the environment. So much of the land they currently farm was under water not long ago. They have adapted to their environment and made farmland pop up from virtually nothing. Dutch farms are dwarfed compared to the typical American farm, we can learn a lot from those in the Netherlands who understand how to use a small amount of land so effectively.

Optimization is absolutely key in all of Dutch agriculture. They optimize the land they have to use, the seeds they put into it and the business running the logistics. We were all impressed by how well adopted agro-tourism was everywhere we visited. Not only did farmers bring consumers to their farms to buy their products they also facilitated tours and learning opportunities as another form of income for the operation. We can definitely take a lot of ideas from our time in Holland and implement them in our own current and future operations.

To say this group meshed well is an understatement. By the end of the trip it legitimately felt like we had become a family. Our in-country guide, Anna, we lovingly called dad and our AFA supervisor, Annie, became our in-country mom. I can imagine at some point, it truly appeared like we were siblings; it definitely felt this way. It was an experience of a lifetime and I am thankful to have spent it with the ones I did. It would not have been possible without the hard work and support of so many people and organizations, and for this we are all thankful.

Lindsay King, Oklahoma State University

Final Day: Where do we go from here?

Written by Luke Drachenberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison

As I slide into my seat for the final and homeward flight of my global experience with AFA, it hits me: I’ve just traveled halfway around the world and back again, lived and learned in a new culture, and formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I can picture the places our group has been, the people we met, and the food that (most of us) tried. I think over our visits, among others, to Thanathon Orchard, Pun Pun Organic Farm, Raming Tea Co., and Ichitan Group PCL that gave us a variety of perspectives on agriculture in Thailand and its importance to the economic and political systems of the country. There is no question that this has been a once-in-a-lifetime trip.Royal Project Nong Hoi (54)

On a personal level, I appreciated the fact that this trip pushed me out of my comfort zone. I chose this destination not for its beautiful sights or wonderful food, but rather because I knew the culture I would experience would be radically different than the one I was raised in. Thailand didn’t disappoint; from day one I often felt overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and people we encountered. Everything was different and new. This challenged me in a positive way and made me take a long, hard look at the differences between Thai culture and that of the US. As Henry Rollins once said, a great way to learn about your country is to leave it. After experiencing Thailand, I couldn’t agree more.

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Given the above, one question still remains: where do we go from here? The original 40 Chances program and subsequent Global Fellows trip were based on the premise that each of us has 40 years, or 40 chances, to leave a positive impact on the world. In a press release announcing the program, AFA stated the following: “As the agriculture industry is faced with feeding more people with fewer resources, this next generation of agriculture leaders has many challenges and opportunities. The program’s objective is to give this group of student leaders an edge when it comes time to graduate, equipping them to make significant contributions to agriculture and food related issues.” As we approach graduation and transition into our working careers, the step of where we go from here is clear. We now have been equipped with the skills and ideas to make a difference; it is now up to us to use these skills during our 40 “chances” to make the world a better place.

The Netherlands – Last Day and Recap

 

On our last day in Amsterdam, Netherlands we got to visit the Vincent Van Gogh Museum and explore his various paintings throughout his life. We  learned that he got his start at painting by being inspired from impressionist painters and his family had an agriculture background. By examining all of his paintings that were present on our tour, we discovered that Mr. Gogh’s favorite agricultural crop was probably wheat.

To recap everything that we visited and experienced, we toured Koppert Cress and received an interesting presentation from Mr. Rob Baan. We toured the Anne Frank House, had an interesting presentation of the ministry of Economic Affairs at The Hague,  had another very intriguing presentation from a representative at Food Valley, toured Seed Valley, toured Agriport (Barendse), worked on our service project in Food Forest, received a very interesting briefing from Susan Phillips from the U.S. Embassy, toured Artis Zoo, and visited Keukenhof.

We also traveled to Wageningen and listened to Nicolas Appert and Director Jeroen Knol from the European Federation of Food Science and Technology (EFFoST). We even visited 2 organic farms (i.e. a dairy farm and a care farm). We also got to experience the processing and refining of Soybeans, Canola, and Sunflower oil from Cargill at two of their processing plants in Amsterdam. We even got to experience a music concert from the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra.

Our key takeaways from our trip were that we need to maintain a Global Market mindset, education and collaboration are essential for the continued advancements in agriculture, and our appreciation for the United States of America.

We would like to thank all of our sponsors, CHS, Monsanto, Bunge, and Cargill for their generous donations and support for our trip to the Netherlands and having us explore agriculture on the global level. We would also like to thank International Institute of Education (IIE) for organizing the logistics of our trip and keeping us safe everyday.

-Nick Neumann, University of Missouri

 

 

 

Adventures in Bolivia – Closing Remarks

Bolivia Goodbye
We said good bye to Bolivia and Cesar, our Institute of International Education guide, really early in the morning – about 1 a.m.

January 11, brought us back to States. We’re meeting in Washington, D.C., with the two other groups to share our learning from each of our trips.

While everyone was thankful to back on U.S. soil, we were even more excited to meet up with the other AFA Global Fellows!

Hearing more about the experiences in the Netherlands and Thailand enlightened each of us about how diverse global agriculture truly is. Culture, government and financial stability all play an important role in each county’s successes and obstacles. The diversity among us and the generosity each country showed us has truly opened our eyes over the past two weeks.

We were all exposed to different continents and climates, but everyone’s experiences were certainly enriched. While each of our journeys are coming to an end, our life learning isn’t through.

Thanks to the past four years of AFA programming and the awesome opportunity to travel abroad, we have all changed of our perspectives and increased our exposure to international agriculture. We are eternally grateful. The future is unknown as we look at the next 40 years, or 40 chances we each have to make a difference in the lives of others, but the impact, I’m sure, will be beyond compare.

Morgan Beach
University of Missouri

Day 13: Our Last Day In Thailand

Written by Wes Davis, Purdue University

Today was our last day exploring Thailand and it was quite the adventure! Some of our group spent the day visiting the beach while others toured the Thailand Grand Palace and a well-known outdoor shopping area called JJ Market. Being a fair-skinned redhead, I opted to avoid any chance of sunburn and chose the latter.

We hopped in a taxi around 9:30 and went straight to the Palace. The entire site was inundated with visitors from around the world all there to see the famed Palace. As we entered the gates, we saw the immaculate and ornate building enclosed by a ten-foot wall, much of which contained murals depicting the stories of the Thai gods.

After seeing the Palace, we left the walled complex and saw the queen’s Palace while Jessica met up with a Thai foreign exchange student her family had hosted. We finished our tour and Jessica’s friend took us downtown to grab a bite to eat and shop at JJ Market. On the way, we made a pitstop at a Pokemon event and for many of us, it was a flashback to our childhoods!

When we arrived at the market, it was a shock for us all. The entire place was basically a five acre flea market on steroids. We went in and out of the booths seeing low cost shoes, clothing, collectibles, and gifts from around the world. Several of us walked away with great purchases including our in-country advisor, Keith, who walked away with several nice handmade silk floral shirts.

That evening, we walked a few blocks from our hotel to visit a sky restaurant called Rooftop 409. With a beautiful skyline view in the background, we laughed, talked, and shared our thoughts on the trip as a whole. After our delicious meal, we all headed back to the hotel and many of us pulled all-nighters before leaving for the hotel at 4:00am.

After processing all our luggage and documents, we all said goodbye to our IIE country leader, Kit, and headed toward the gate and the 22 hours of travel that laid between us and the US. Many airline meals, countless naps, and two flights later, we are all back in the states tucked in our beds and trying to shake off the jet lag.

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We are all happy so many of you followed our adventure in Thailand and hope that you were able to see the impact and value this experience has had for us all. More than anything, we have each been given an opportunity to challenge our perspectives and change our approach to things that are different. Not only has the global fellowship given us incredible memories, but it has given us a new lens through which to view and react to the world. Thank you for following our journey. We can’t wait to see you all back in the states!

Greenhouse Visit

Good day from the Netherlands!

After a high quality hotel breakfast, the fellows ventured north to one of the largest orange pepper growers in all of the Netherlands.  After about an hour long bus ride, we could tell we were likely in the right area, with all of the massive greenhouses dotting the landscape.  We arrived on site nearly half an hour early, so it was a unanimous decision to go ahead and continue our napping session on the bus.  Not long after however, we were greeted by a very brightly dressed Dutch woman with more than enough energy to wake up a bunch of half-asleep college students!

Petra Barendse, one of the owners of Bezoek AgriPort, was kind enough to show us around her business that her and her husband built from the ground up.  Their business is made up of three greenhouses, all 10 hectares in size in which two are used for orange pepper production and the other for some very delicious cherry tomatoes (we know; we tried them).  IMG_0447During our time walking through one of the greenhouses, it was incredible to see how much was being produced.  After all, you can plant a large number of vegetables when you have 25 acres under one climate controlled roof!

During the tour, we were able to take some time to sit down with Petra and have a nice conversation about how her and her husband started the business and how the area where they currently live and do business, became a vegetable production powerhouse.  Prior to all of the greenhouses moving into the area, the land actually all sat empty after farmers in the local area were no longer able to make a living.  Petra, her family and friends, all came out to the area and decided it would be a great place to increase the size of their operations.  Petra’s business along with her friends’ greenhouse production businesses formed what it now known as AgriPort.  From an aerial view, this area is very impressive with 25 acre greenhouses spanning across the area.  All of the businesses belonging to AgriPort come together to discuss marketing strategies, more efficient methods of production and as a result, succeed as a collective unit.

Later on in the afternoon, we were able to take some time to work on the presentation we will be giving to industry leaders in Washington D.C., early next week.  It seems crazy that we are getting down to the final days of our trip here in the Netherlands.  As we expected, it has flown by and there have been countless memories made!

We can’t wait to be back on American soil and share our experiences from the trip of a lifetime!IMG_0464

Day 12: Pulling It All Together

Written by Adam Striegel, Iowa State University

Have you ever had a defining moment of clarity? A moment that for a instant, the world seems to freeze in place as gears inside your head connect the points together in a way they’ve never been connected before.

I had one of those moments while concluding a group presentation of our recommendation reports for improving Thailand’s agricultural systems. Our group at that point had spent about two weeks in-country visiting university and government staff, touring research facilities, as well as large agribusinesses.

The group I was a part of presented on three facets Thailand could improve upon: educational efforts and research, communication, and technology development and infrastructure.

I found the presentations a very useful way to summarize our experience as we soon realized almost every one came to the same conclusions in the recommendation reports. That said, many Global Fellows saw these issues with different “lenses” based off their area of study and life experiences.

This aforementioned moment came in the conclusion of my group’s presentation. We fielded a question from Danielle, a senior at the University of Illinois in Agronomy asking us to clarify how our web-based communication/virtual library website proposition would cater itself to technologically in-adept farmers who may have minimal education.

Chandler, D.J. and I all answered the question, which then led to discussion amongst the other Fellows. I stood at the front of the room and watched as this discussion “pop corned” around the room from Global Fellow to Global Fellow. I watched as each individual’s contribution to the discussion added to the group’s understanding of this issue. Ag Business, Ag finance, Animal Science and Agronomy. The Global Fellows come from a very diverse background, and over these past 4 years have added immense value to our experience in AFA and in college.

I said it then in the conference room, and I will say it again now.

This is AFA. This is what AFA is about.