Friday, January 31, 2014

Starting February 10th: SDARL Class VII's international seminar to Chile & Peru

The countdown has started; SDARL Class VII will be leaving to Chile for it's international study seminar on February 10th. Part of our group will spend a few additional days in Peru.
Please follow our journey to these agriculturaly diverse countries daily from February 10th until February 25th, by visiting this blog.
Vineyard in Chile

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Final Day - Group Heads Back Home

The sun sets on another great SDARL alumni travel experience. It was filled with agriculture,culture, new friends, good food, excellent Vino and a boat load of good times.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Five Say, "Adios!"

JANUARY 11, 2014

Rachel's Reflections

Thank you for allowing me to share our experiences over the past few weeks. I am now back in the South Dakota tundra, looking at the snow on the ground and getting ready to switch my sandals to snow boots.

Five of us spent our last day taking a trip to the coastal towns of Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar on the Pacific Ocean. As Connie shared, the rest of the SDARL group visited a stable dairy and vegetable farm before heading to the coast where they will spend a few days relaxing before returning to the states.

As for Bill, Penny, Kevin, Teri and myself, we enjoyed a day with a very knowledgable tour guide who gave us all kinds of information on the Chilean culture, economy, and the various sites we were passing. 

Bill, Penny, Teri, Kevin and I on the hillside tour of Valparaiso.
Kevin and Teri Jaspers at the Vina Del Mar flower clock.
Bill and Penny Slovek saying good bye from the Pacific beach.
Rachel Mehlhaf surfing on home from the Pacific.
We also took some time to reflect on our experience as a whole on this tour of Argentina and Chili. When we were saying our goodbyes Saturday morning, I found myself somewhat conflicted knowing we have created so many memories together and built new as well as continued past friendships. These experiences have connected us moving forward, and we will be better able to relate to Latin American agriculture and how it impacts our area of the world. 

Through their site visit, Dan and ReaJean Gee were able to ensure we had many quality visits and places to stay over the past two weeks. Their visit eliminated surprises that could arise when entering a new country with different customs and culture than our own. They had already met many of our tour guides and been to the farms we visited, allowing for us to built on the initial relationships they formed and get right down to learning about agriculture in another country. Dan works very hard to make sure the dollars we invest in this kind of trip are turned into a mix of educational, cultural, and fun experiences. Simply put, the planning Dan and ReaJean do ahead of time keeps the trip more or less stress free for the rest of us.

Also, being able to get to know spouses of other SDARL Alumni added value to the tour. As I mentioned in a past post, spouses and families provide much support when we go through the SDARL class often only hearing about our experiences and the people we meet second hand. As Teri Jaspers says, "This trip has given me the opportunity to get to know people Kevin has talked about and to relate to his time spent in the organization. This trip has helped me connect with the group and gain new friendships in SDARL."

I am already looking forward to seeing my friends again on our next adventure whether is it in SD or in another country. I leave you with a few final pictures from the trip. Until we meet again, "Adios!"

Undurraga Vineyard beauty.
More Underraga Vineyard beauty.
The hillsides of Valparaiso, a colorful sight to behold.

Graffiti, otherwise known as art here, lines the walls in the residential streets of Valparaiso.

Saturday, January 11 - Group Heads West

At the farm resting and relaxing
Saturday, Jan. 11 This morning we bid farewell to beautiful Santiago and headed west to explore more facets of ag in Chile. Part of our group headed off to do a bit of touring before heading home. At the dairy called Santa Inez - Alpro, agricultural engineer Francisco Herreria, led us on a tour of the 1200-cow dairy owned by the Jimenez family. In 1983, the family had 30 cows and has built it to the current size. In addition to the 715 hectares in the operation we visited, the family owns 1,000 hectares of land in southern Chile where the calves are sent to be raised. Most milk production is in the southern part of Chile where cattle can graze on pastures making feeding costs much less. Santa Inez is one of the biggest dairy operations in the Santiago area. The company raises corn, alfalfa, canola and wheat to feed to the cows and to provide cash income.. There are 45 employees at this site. The average milk production per cow is 38 liters per day; in southern Chile the average is 22 liters. Leg devices and software track the production of the animals. Cows are milked three times a day. A person hired to milk cows makes about 500,000 pesos or U.S. dollars $1,000 a month. Cow comfort is essential in a dairy and Francisco answered many questions from our group about practices in Chile. Once again, we found common ground and learned from each other. The graciousness of South American people overwhelmed us again as we enjoyed lunch prepared by Mary Neito and served by her family, including her son Luis Nieto Gomez, grandson Ivan and his wife Natalie and granddaughter Maria Paz.. Three-year old Joaquin, son of Ivan and Natalie, brought smiles to faces as he went everywhere with his dad and toy John Deere tractor. Sitting down to lunch we enjoyed exceptionally fresh lettuce, onions and tomatoes --- so great for land-locked South Dakotans. And the main dish was cooked on charcoal and served braesco style. Once the meat was cooked, the steak, pork, sausages, chicken and potatoes were served on a metal plate that was then placed on a table-size grill. Once we thought we were full we were offered ice cream and fruit. And our second dessert was a luscious cake, finishing with a traditional Chilean coffee. Earlier we'd toured the family's farm that raises broccoli, sweet corn, cauliflower. With family members and five employees, the Farm Luis Nieto Gomez of Curogavi City packages these vegetables and provides them to local supermarkets for consumers. We witnessed the expert work with curved knives as the workers trimmed squash to be sent to market. The stalks and any material left over from trimming the products to get them ready for market is chopped and fed to their cattle. The group agreed that the samples of sweet corn were excellent.

 By Connie Groop

Checking out the sweetcorn with the hills in the background

Francisco explains their dairy practices

Checking out the sweetcorn packaging
Dairy Cows
Spending Sunday relaxing at the ocean.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

One Packed Day!

JANUARY 10, 2014

Some Fruit and Veggies, a Little Wine and One Fine Show

We embarked on a full day today starting early to visit the Lo Valledor fruit and vegetable market on Friday, its busiest day of the week. This market has 600 owners, covers 74 acres, and employees 330 people. More than $3 billion changes hands per year and all the transactions must be paid using cash, not credit cards or other means of payment. More than 60 percent of the transactions in the market are between the producers and those buying for commercial use.
This market is only a local market…meaning goods not fit for export are sold here.
 If one piece of fruit is bad, the entire pellet, often including 10 or more
boxes, goes back to the producer and ends up at this market. 
An entry fee of $5/car and $7/truck is paid at the gate. 
Each day 4500 vehicles pass through the gates at the market. This looks to equal mass chaos!
The produce looks absolutely delicious!
From 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. the new fruit comes into the market.
Then the gates open for buyers at 6:00 a.m. 
The farmers like to have a little fun at the market.
These two characters are just one example. Carrots anyone??
Anyone want to make some salsa with these peppers and garlic?
Cochayuyo, shown on the left, is a very healthy type a
seaweed that people in Chile often give to babies at teething time
At this market green beans were selling for $.62/lb and chicken was selling or $1.85/lb. We were told at the local grocery store the prices are at least 20% higher than at the market. I saw chicken selling at the local grocery store selling for $2.13/lb and ground beef selling for $3.37/lb.

Following the Lo Valledor market tour we traveled to a local nut farm. Although this farm grew other crops including table grapes, pears, apples, peaches, figs, kakis, squash, pumpkins and wheat seedlings, we concentrated on the nuts. 

Our group in front of the walnut trees with Extension
Advisor, Patricio Almarza Diaz, and the farm owner.
Thirty three of the 80 hectares on the farm are used for walnut production.
Here the farm owner is explaining the damage frost has done to the walnut crop. 
I have never seen a chestnut tree before. The
chestnuts are quite ornamental as they develop.
Average production for walnuts on this farm as been 2 ton/acre with harvests up to 2.8 ton/acre when the climate is right. The average price received is $2.27/lb of walnuts with a profit of $1.14/lb after expenses. 

Only 2.5 million of the 184 million farmed acres in Chile are irrigated.
This farmer uses irrigation on 27 acres of his land.
Following lunch, we stopped at the Undurraga Winery. This winery originated in 1885 with 1.8 hectares. Today the winery has 14 plantations covering 4200 acres disbursed from northern Chile to Patagonia in southern Chile. and is one of the top quality wine producers in Chile exporting to 75 countries. 

We toured the original site of Vina Undurraga.

Our tour guide, David, led on a tour of the vineyards taking use
from grape through the production process to a wine tasting.
Between the vineyards, the gardens that are traditionally a part of the vineyards
in Chili and the mountains in the background, the landscape proved to be quite picturesque.
The dry barrels sell for $1800 a piece to people for ornamental use. 

Underraga has been awarded the best Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile.
It was one of the four wines at our wine tasting. 
We learned screw caps are the way of the future according to our tour guide. He says this is because with the screw cap the wine can be kept exactly as it was bottled. With the inconsistency of the porosity of the corks, the wine oxidizes changing its color and taste. The poorer the cork quality the more oxidation.

Following the Underraga tour we returned to the hotel to get ready for a traditional evening meal and Chilean show. We watched a spectacular show of historical dances and costumes from the different areas around the country and its peoples. Some of us even received the invitation to join in the show trying our hand at some of the traditional dances. The evening came to an end with the Latin dance party for everyone. Some of us literally danced the night away!!!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Getting to know Chile

JANUARY 9, 2013

US Embassy Meeting and Santiago Tour

We started today meeting with a few representatives from the US Embassy in Chile. Here we learned about the vast diversity in the Chilean products, its climate and its agriculture. Here are some tidbits we learned:
  • Chile is the largest exporter of fruit in the southern hemisphere.
  • Sixteen of the 24 climates in the world exist in Chili.
  • Twenty five percent of the people in Chili work either directly in agriculture production or a processing job related to it.
  • Most people who do not work in agriculture are two generations or less removed from the farm. In the USA people are up to four generations removed from the farm.
  • Copper mining is the #1 industry in Chile.
  • Chile exports many more goods than it imports.
  • The Chilean economy is very stable and the national budget has a large surplus due to the copper mining.
Following the meeting, we set out on a tour of the city. Our tour took us to all the popular spots such as the Plaza de Armas and Cathedral, the Municipal Theater, the Presidential Palace, the Central Fish Market, the San Francisco Church, the hill of San Lucia, and many more. Below are a photos from a few of the places we stopped.

The Chilean economy took a boost as many of us purchased souvenirs
at the Central Market. This market had over 150 small shops.
All the products in the market are made in Chile with many
of the shops being run by the craftsmen themselves. Some of our purchases
included cooper jewelry, alpaca shawls, leather, and paintings.
Some wool waiting to be made into a beautiful creation.
The building in the front is the post office. Much of the older
architecture in Santiago has Spanish influence. The
detail is in many of these older buildings is stunning.
We stopped to tour the Cathedral, built in 1748, at the Armas Plaza.
Santiago has 200 Roman Catholic Churches, and nearly 70% of the
population in Chile are members of this church.
The front of the cathedral.
Another corner of the cathedral.
The second cathedral we stopped at, the Church of San Francisco, is the oldest
church in the city. It was built between 1586 and 1618. You can see many cracks in the walls
that have been repaired over the years. Most of the damage comes
from the earthquakes that often happen in the country.

In a back corner of the San Francisco church you can write a wish on the wall.
This started many years ago when a student wrote for a wish to do well on
final exams. The tradition grew from there. Kevin and Teri joined in
by adding to the many wishes written on the wall.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing and finished with dinner at a few different restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. 

Our meals included everything from a full trout shown here to pasta to rabbit.
Here is a meal of the Turbot fish on top of a vegetable sauté. Fresh fish is
popular in Chile, being the country boarders the Pacific Ocean.