2011 has been an interesting year. Weather issues in my area and the rest of the U.S. have created some excitement in the markets. We had record rainfall and a full soil profile that kept me from getting into the fields in a timely fashion. Since harvest was late last year (finished October 1st) I decided to take the preventative plant option on my insurance and looking back I am liking that decision. What a year to remember.
This year is also exciting for me because I am a 2011 Eisenhower Fellow for Agriculture. Their statement is “Eisenhower Fellowships engages emerging leaders from around the world to enhance their professional capabilities, broaden their contacts, deepen their perspectives, and unite them in a diverse, global community – a network where dialogue, understanding, and collaboration lead to a more prosperous, just, and peaceful world.” Their website is: www.efworld.org.
This is the first year that there have been two Agriculture Fellows thanks to Monsanto becoming a sponsor. Rhett Proctor of Great Barrington, MA is the other Agriculture Fellow who finished his travels to Australia and New Zealand. The agriculture committee is looking at ways to become stronger in the years to come.
As a Fellow, I was able to choose my area of study which is precision agriculture and remote sensing. I will be traveling to Argentina (2 weeks), Uruguay (1 week), and Brazil (2 weeks). I leave on October 14th and return on November 26th. I will be spending an extra week in Brazil over Thanksgiving with my wife and two boys.
My journey as a Fellow has already started. Last September I traveled to EF headquarters in Philadelphia, PA to interview. Former USDA Undersecretary Jim Moseley, DTN Executive Editor Marcia Taylor, EF Vice President Dan Giesler, and two EF program officers conducted the 20 minute interview. I came out of the interview feeling good but scratching my head because there was no small talk, they proceeded right into the questions.
I learned later that fall that I was chosen as an Agriculture Fellow and in April I traveled to Philadelphia to meet the Multi National Fellows (MNF) from all parts of the world. Also, the nine other 2011 U.S. Fellows were present. This was a wonderful experience to meet these top level people from other countries and here in the U.S. I look forward to staying in touch with them and I hope that we can do justice to the EF motto.
Since April I have been preparing for my travels to South America. I bought the Rosetta Stone software for Spanish and I need to get back to the lessons. This is just one part of my preparations. Flights have been booked, hotels reserved, Visas and shots acquired and meetings tentatively scheduled.
I leave at 5:30 am PST on October 14th and arrive in Argentina at 8:00 am on the 15th. Since this is a Saturday it will give me a chance to get acclimated and settled for this new chapter of my life. I will visit with EF Alumni and get a chance to see what goes on in other cultures.
Some of the tentative meetings in Argentina are with Aapersid (Argentina No-Till Farmers Association), the Grobo Group (world renown agribusiness), AACREA (Association of Agriculture Experimentation), ag journalist Hector Huergo, INDEAR (biotechnology), Sociedad Rural Argentina (promotion of agriculture heritage), and La Rural (world’s largest agribusiness show). I will be meeting with the presidents, CEOs and key people of these great organizations.
From Argentina I will travel to Uruguay. Originally I was just to travel to Argentina and Brazil, but through LinkedIn I put out a call for help and was offered an opportunity for some meetings. Meetings for this portion of my trip have yet to be scheduled.
The final leg is Brazil. At this time it looks like I will be traveling to Sao Paulo, Piracibaca, Campinas, Ribeirao Preto, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and will spend a week with my family in Rio de Janeiro. I will also be spending some time with my friend and 2011 Brazilian Fellow, Flavio Nogueira (Secretary General Federation of Industries of the State of Minas Gerais).
The tentative meetings are with Monsanto (President Andre Dias), State University of Sao Paulo, State University of Campinas, Agronomic Institute of Campinas, Lanagro Sao Paulo (National Agriculture Lab), U.S. Embassy, Ministry of Science and Technology and the State Secretary for Science and Technology in Belo Horizonte.
In all three countries I will be visiting with EF Fellows and having meals with them. I look forward to talking with them about leadership and I will try to tie in agriculture to their respective fields. Farm visits will also play a big part on my adventure and I look forward to learning their views on precision ag and to learn about their crops and farming practices.
At the forefront of my Fellowship, I am going to base questions on the fact that world agriculture needs to feed 9.5 billion people by the year 2050. Technology is going to pave the way and I hope that I can help in making that happen.
Even though I will be traveling to different countries, I do know that they are facing some of the same issues that we in the U.S. are facing. Environmental activists, trade barriers, trade agreements, and governmental regulations that hinder successful agriculture in the U.S is also present in South American countries.
At the time of writing this I am trying to finish up harvest, I have had much time to think and plan. Plan not only visits, but questions that I should ask these high level people that make their respective countries work. I am curious about their thoughts on precision agriculture and the role it can play in meeting the challenges that agriculture is facing.
As I stated, I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to expanding my mind and making new friends that I hope will make a difference for agriculture’s future. I will be writing about my experience and thoughts at http://theunmannedfarmer.blogspot.com.
I hope that you will follow me on my journey and I would like to hear from you on your thoughts on any agriculture subject that you would like to know more about while I am there or in general. It would be cool to try to make this somewhat interactive. Until next time, keep it between the fences!