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!

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