Sunday, October 30, 2011

Time Flies on Fellowship

I can't believe that two weeks have past already. It seems like yesterday that I left my family early in the morning and dogs with looks that would make even the toughest of men break down.

This is definitely an experience of a lifetime. Although the schedule has been demanding with travel, tight time frames between meetings, little chance for communication home (except at places with WiFi), and buses being canceled I would not have missed this for the world.

I know that I have skipped a bunch of time since the last posting, but managing data, laundry, pictures, farming, and travel leave me little time for this. I am also writing a column a week (deadline Wednesday/Thursday) so those things are taking priority.

Camera batteries (two), two computers, keyboard, and a Gopro video camera takes time and juggling to keep charged. The priority is the ipad and camera batteries. When I download pictures to the windows computer I put excess onto a 500 GB hard drive.

Anyway, the information that I have learned has been very useful, I just hope that it does not get wasted by not being able to share it with people. The way they manage their farms in Argentina is at a higher level than in the U.S.

The youth that is involved in agriculture at all levels is something we in the U.S. should envy. The average age of a farmer is 55-59 in the US, but my guess is around 35-40 in Argentina. This youth brings a love for technology and a hunger for being successful in agriculture. I am jealous of their country for this.

The Pampas is a top notch production area in the world and the logistics for export are better than the US. However, their could be improved by building an extra lane of road each way. When traveling in the country I thought that it sucked because the side roads were dirt, but after learning there are no rocks on the Pampas and hauling rock for gravel roads is cost prohibitive.

Wind erosion is the main concern ecologically. Because the early use of the land was mainly for beef production, many trees had been planted to stop the wind, but to mainly give cows shelter. Otherwise trees are not native to the Pampas. I wonder what the environmentalists would say if they were to be cut down.

I had a great learning experience with all of my meetings. This one-on-one learning from biotechnology to precision theory and practical use to politics makes me (as a friend and EF Alumni said) the only person in the world with that knowledge base. It is pretty humbling when you think about it like that.

I was fortunate to arrive a week before their Presidential Election and to see all of the propaganda and campaign material makes the US look cheap by comparison. The incumbent won and I had an opportunity to sit in on an explanation of the the results by a famous Argentine political analyst (name in other suitcase that is still checked in with the hotel). I could not have planned things better if I had tried. It would be like Bill O'Reilly or someone of that level giving the presentation to a small group of people. What an opportunity.

Finally I traveled to two Estancias (farms) for my last weekend in Argentina. I was picked up by a car and driven 6 hours basically west of BsAs to Rufino. I was picked up around 8pm by the Chief Production Officer (Julio) and we headed off to the farm. I was put into my own casa and dinner was served to the two of us along with the agronomy team (Jorge-Head, Gustavo and Arturo). After some small talk we went to bed for a 7am start.

I woke up without an alarm (John Denver said it best - "Thank God I'm A Country Boy) at 5:30 and a good thing too, my battery died. Julio and I had breakfast together after meeting with the crew in their quarters. Then out to the field with Julio and the crew of three.

Our first stop was a corn field being fertilized with UN32 by a Rogator. I hopped on board and road two passes with Julio standing on the steps. The fertilizer was being placed according to a prescription map and it was fun to watch it increase, decrease, or stop according to the zones or areas already treated.

Next we head to a field that was being seeded to sorghum by an Argentine no-till drill and an Agco tractor. We hopped on board and at the end of the pass I took over. I set the drill to seed, reved the tractor, and engaged the auto steer. Finally I have driven a tractor in both hemispheres. At the end of my pass I make the turn and head back and make the next turn and hop off for the next adventure.

A field of last years corn was being seeded to soybeans with an air seeder, JD 9220, and fertilizer. They were just finishing filling up the fertilizer and we hopped on. No auto steer on this one yet but I drove it back seeding my first soybeans and straight and true. AWESOME!!!

We head back to the farm and I hop on a motorcycle and a worker hops on another one and we take a ride around the farm before lunch. We stop at the feed lot holding over 3,000 head of beef of different weights. We drive around some more and grab lunch.

After lunch I give a presentation of what I am doing on my farm and how the UAV is being used and then we head to another Estancia that is rented by Caldenes. This Estancia is also owned by the 3rd EF in Argentina who happens to be my Program Officer's father.

We tour the corn, with the Julio and Jorge, head back to the farm for tea, and I walk around taking pictures before it rains or the light leaves. After siesta and showering time, I meet Conrado Etcebarne again. We talk for almost two hours and then dinner and bed. What a day of learning and experiencing.

The next day I sleep in a little and finally head outside at 7am to find a quite spot to process images and catch up on my journal. I finish and am served breakfast around 9am.

I grab my camera because the grounds keeper Carlos is getting the wood ready for Argentine BBQ. Lamb is on the menu and I get some great pictures. I head back to my room, grab my windows computer, and show Carlos and his wife the pictures of him and the farm from the day before and they were pleased.

We ate around 2pm (as is customary) and I bring my bags down to the car to catch my bus. We head to Rufino and learn at the bus station that my 4:30 bus is canceled and the next one is at 11:30pm. We grab that ticket and head back to the farm.

I rest a little, have dinner at 9pm, and the car arrives to take me to the station. I was saddened parting my new friends on my last evening in Argentina and I was definitely not looking forward to the bus ride at that time.

It worked out fine because I spent more time with my friends and did catch about 5 hours sleep on the bus. Not bad, but I was definitely tired. Arrive BsAs at 6am, hotel at 6:15, and my room just a little after. I had to take a shower to get the travel off of me. Ate breakfast and the took a dip in the jacuzzi tub...very relaxing after the travel debacle.

I will sum things up better after I get home, but the experience is something that I will never forget. I have fallen in love with Argentina and it's people. The knowledge that I gained can never be replaced and I hope I am better for it and can live up to the expectations of the EF goals and motto. Until next time keep it between the fence rows!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Argentina Day 2

Had an awesome nights rest and get up at 8am to work out. They have nice weight equipment and a decent eliptical. Spend about an hour there, head back to my room, and get ready for breakfast and the day.

The breakfast is included and is buffet style. Lots of different breads and pasteries, runny eggs, Argentine bacon, small sausages, seasoned potatoes sliced thinly, meets (like lunch meats) and cheese, fruit, and yogurt. I grabbed what I wanted and poured my OJ and had coffee. The differences that I see between meals in Argentina and the U.S. is it is treated as an occassion. No one was dressed in shorts or pajamas and time is taken to enjoy the food.

I head back to my room to check email, Facebook, and call home. I decide to grab my tripod and EOS camera and head out. I go the opposite direction from last night and walk past the French and Brazilian Embassys. I walk along the main avenue towards the "Oblisk" and the building with Eva Peron.

As I am walking I look down a side street and see an awesome building with it's reflection in another one. I walk past a huge building with security and think it is something political. After taking pictures and moseying around a little I come upon the signs describing what the big building is...a world renowned opera house.

I take more pictures of it and the park across the street. It had "music stands" as decorations with pigeon nests in them. Rhonda would freak because of her "love" of birds. I walk some more with my camera still on the tripod. I figured I am a big boy and not many people would probably mess with me. Also, 90% of all people are good and would help out if needed. Also it was Sunday.

I scramble around and finally find my way back to the main avenue (me, directions, and cities don't always jive) and see the "Obleisk." I take pictures of side streets (I hope they capture the mood I was feeling) and make my way to a better place to see the monument. As I look around I can see 3 McDonald's and a Burger King.

I head towards the hotel with tripod and camera in tow taking pictures here and there of things that catch my eye. One thing that popped out most was a marquee that said TANGO in big silver letters with a black background. I had to have that picture since Argentina is the birthplace of the Tango.

Back at the hotel at 4pm I start to get ready to meet my Program Officer (PO) Ines at 5pm. She called not long after I get into my room and says that they will be an hour late due to the ash coming down from a Chilean volcano. That explains why it was kind of hazy out and I was coughing a little (I was also fighting being sick).

Ines and her husband, Sebatian, arrive and we tour the city. We stop at a coffee shop called Tortino that is a local favorite. We go over my agenda and grab a bite and a beer (Ines has OJ because she is pregnant) and then head to a community center in the city where she had set up a
"Jazz" concert.

When we arrive the local people are doing the tango. It was awesome to see something that was not a tourist attraction. We take pictures (and I took some video) and then the band came on around 9:30. They played dixieland music and were not bad.

We then head to dinner. In their culture dinner starts around 9 or 10 pm. We try a restraunt that was their first choice but the wait was was Mother's Day in Argentina. We go to a German restraunt and I have bbq ribs (pork chops).

Back to the hotel around midnight and I see the light dusting of ash on their car. To my room and off to bed for a car that will pick me up at 6am for my first meeting. Now the Fellowship really starts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Brand New "Fellow"

I can't believe that it has been just over a year and I have started my travel portion of being an Eisenhower Fellow. I did not know what to expect, but I have found out that there is not much free time.

I thought for sure that I would be able to keep up the blog, but sleep was more important. Now I regret giving the other Ag Fellow, Rhett Proctor, a bad time during his journey. I completely understand why he didn't post as often as I thought he should :)

I woke up at 2:30 am PST to catch my 5:30 flight to Salt Lake City. As I was walking out of the office the emotions really hit me that I would not be seeing my boys for 5 weeks. I was also torn by the look Bandit gave me while he was sitting on the porch. He knew I would be gone for awhile and was miffed.

Rhonda rode with me to Lewiston. We talked business, boys, and Brazil. The timing for getting to the airport could not have been better and I didn't have to wait long. As Rhonda is accompanying me in line the emotions start to hit again. We have never been apart for more than a week at the most. Torn between excitement and regret I take my shoes off, put my electronics in the bin and prepare to leave Idaho for the longest period since college.

After arriving at the airport I am on a mission to find the Brookstone store to purchase an iPad holder with built in bluetooth keyboard. It is awesome BTW. As I am walking I run into Senator Jim Risch (Jr. U.S. Senator) and we have a quick chat. We wished each other well and went our ways. After going into another terminal (SLC is under construction) I finally find Brookestone, make my purchase and head for the Crown Room to have a quick bite and play on the iPad.

The flight to Atlanta was fine and I had a 5 hour layover there. That is a bunch of time to kill. I walk around for a couple of hours to get the blood flowing. I stop at a money exchange place and convert dollars to pesos...4.2 to 1. I head to the Crown Room to have a few snacks and a couple of cocktails to prep me to get some sleep. Hop on the plane at 8:30 and we are delayed an hour for some reason. Finally we take off leaving the good ol' US of A behind.

The meal was wonderful and the movies available were good. I watched the Green Lantern. As the movie was playing I switched to the traveling map and saw that we were over Cuba. I open the shade and see lights and not much happening. As I am preparing for sleep I look at the map again and notice we are over Kingston, Jamaica. I scramble to grab the camera and take a picture. Finally sleep.

I am awakened at 6 am (4 hours before home time) and have an English Muffin with spinach, eggs, and cheese, fruit, and COFFEE! I slept ok, but I am tired. We arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina and have to wait on the tarmac for 15 minutes due to our delay. Hop off, grab my luggage, and go through customs with no problems. Waiting for me is my driver holding a sign with my name...a first.

The travels to the hotel take about an hour and I am in a semi coma, but I am so curious with a new country and city that I am trying to take everything in. I grab my little point and shoot Canon camera (PowerShot SX210 IS) and take picts. I also get the GoPro out and take some video. I am amazed and concerened about the driving and all the traffic...almost panic. Not a good thing for someone who likes to be in control of situations like that.

As we are traveling down the main avenue, I see a bulding with a likeness of Eva Peron talking into a microphone. I realize I am in Argentina.

I check into the Hotel Emperador around 11am and I start to get situated. I scramble to call home on Skype. My excitement is dashed by learning that my oldest bagged his first bull elk...a 5 point. I was not there. We chat for awhile and I proceed to take a nap. I was not planning on eating, but just getting sleep for the schedule I have.

I woke up at 4pm after a 2 hour nap and I feel the pangs of hunger from airline food at 6am. I get into my new cool jeans and start to do a walkbout. I ask the front desk about seafood and he points me to Puerto Madaero. I walk the other direction to see what is there (came in from that way).

I head back past the hotel with map in hand and a camera in my pocket. I see the sights (A bell tower dedicated by the British citizens for the 100 year anniversary of democracy). I cross the railroad tracks and I am begining to wonder if I am heading the right direction. Me no hablo makes me worried.

I make it to the old port and am in awe of the newer buildings and the companies that have offices there. I consult my map and keep walking towards a neet looking bridge. As I come to it I put more attention to the grain elevator on the other first glimpse of agriculture while on the ground.

I finally come to my restraunt, Puerto Cristal, and have a wonderful appetizer of veal salami, cheese, greens, in a vinegrette. Nice and light but full of flavor. I am fascinated by the basket of breads that is placed at the table as well. My main course arrives...seafood stew with clams, shrimp, octopus, squid, and other fish in a tomato sauce...mucho bueno.

With dinner I had the server pair a wine for me that was wonderful. It went extremely well with the appetizer and the main course. I am stuffed and left a bunch. Since it was my first meal in Argentina I had to try a desert. I had the creme brulee...vanilla, chocolate, and caramel. I was in heaven.

I grab a cab back to my hotel and through gestures and finally pulling out my room key give the driver the address. Lesson number one...when you don't speak the language make sure you have the address of where you need to go. I went to bed satisfied around midnight with a great first experience in Argentina.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

3-2-1 Liftoff: Three More Days Until Travel

Where does time go? Last year I was just learning that I was an Eisenhower Fellow for Agriculture and now I have less than three days until I leave for Argentina.

I am used to being gone 3-5 days maximum, but being away from Rhonda for three weeks and the boys for five is definitely a new challenge. The emotions are starting to hit all of us. To be sure we had quality time the boys and I golfed Sunday with beautiful weather.

I was able to see Logan’s football game Monday night, but miss the rest of his and Dillon’s. If the team keeps winning, I will miss the playoffs and potentially the Idaho Championship game.

Rhonda stayed home this week to help me get things organized and we have spent some great time together talking about farm stuff and the trip. However, life happens and those moments are interrupted.

Seeding is done with both soft white and hard red winter wheat poking through. Most things are winterized and I have tried to get things lined up for my brother to take care of on the ranch while I am gone. The only thing left is to spray roundup on the stubble and chisel plowing. Oh, how I will miss my tractors.

This weekend panic started to hit. I realized I didn’t have any clothes except suites and jeans with cowboy boots; nothing in between. A trip to Spokane, WA fixed that and now I have stuff in between. I just might stick out with a chaw of tabaccy and a cowboy hat down there.

I believe all of the paperwork is done. Crops reported to insurance and the government, bills are paid, and other paperwork is finished. So far no fires to put out. Travel arrangements are made, meetings set up, and clothes are being washed. Gifts are bought, my PowerPoint presentation is finished, and confirmation on meetings when I get back are done.

WHEWWWW! Trying to cram so much stuff into a smaller time frame with what seems like a ton of bricks on my mind is starting to get to me. DID I FORGET SOMETHING IMPORTANT? I will wait to sync my computers and phone, packing will be tomorrow and Thursday, and airline tickets will be printed as well.

Toothpaste, tums, aloe vera, bug spray with DEET, socks, shoes, ties, underwear, etc. I feel like I need to take the kitchen sink. Did I remember my underwear? I am as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

With all of that aside, I have some very interesting meetings and opportunities ahead of me. In Argentina I will be staying an evening on a farm (Estancia), one of five farms (Campos). The link is They raise Polled Herefords. Maybe I can drive a tractor down there.

I will also spend time with the Argentina No-Till Association (Aapersid) , an Argentina based ag biotechnology company (INDEAR/Bioceres) , and something similar to our University Extension systems (AACREA) . There are quite a few other meetings.

After Argentina I head to Uruguay by way of ferry (2-3 hours) from Buenos Aires to Montevideo. I will visit Uruguay’s Parliament and meet with Senators, give a presentation to the Faculty of Agrarian Sciences, Universidad de la Empresa, and then travel to Delores City (Northwest of Montevideo) and participate in and give a presentation to Agronegocios del Plata (ADP) at their annual meeting. At the meeting will be Uruguay’s Minister of Agriculture, what an opportunity. You can also see me listed on their program at . It is definitely different seeing everything in another language.

From Montevideo I travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil and meet up with Rhonda…on our anniversary! While in Brazil I meet with their Ministry of Agriculture people, the President of Monsanto – Brazil, and EMBRAPA (similar to our extension) . On November 15th I get to share the honor of having my birthday with Brazil becoming a Republic.

File:Flag of Brazil 15-19 November.svgIn Wikipedia – “Upon the proclamation of the Republic, one of the civilian leaders of the movement, the lawyer Ruy Barbosa, proposed a design for the nation's new flag strongly inspired by the flag of the United States. It was flown from November 15, 1889, until November 19, 1889, when Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca – acting as provisional president of Brazil – vetoed the design, citing concerns that it looked too similar to the flag of another state.” This will be special because I truly believe in the power of a Republic!

The last week there will be vacation. Dillon and Logan will join us on November 19th. We will spend time in the Rio de Janeiro area and celebrate Logan’s birthday on the 23rd (November is a big month in our family). 

Writing this hasn’t helped to cure my nerves like I had hoped, they are still there. I know once I am on the plane I will relax and my mind will be working in another mode. I am hoping that it will take my mind off of missing my family and little corner of the world.

I will try to post as often as I can on the blog and Facebook. I will have a couple of different cameras and I also bought a GoPro to attach to me for video. Since I am not as proficient with video I probably won’t have much up until I get back home, we will see. I will have email and you can contact me through the blog or Facebook. By the way, did I pack my underwear?