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An eye opening experience . . .

August 4, 2009

My senior year of college I took a class INTAG 481 Problems in Agriculture in Tropical Areas. This class is mostly geared to students working on a Minor in International Agriculture. I took this class as a replacement for an Agriculture Extension Education class that conflicted with my Animal Nutrition Class. INTAG 481 is a partial semester class that includes a trip over spring break to the tropics. My class went to Puerto Rico. Even though I don’t actually remember much from the class, the trip to PR definitely made an impression on me. I’ve always had an amatuer interest in the tropics, but this trip opened my eyes about agriculture in the tropics. I guess one could say I had a National Geographic view of AG in the tropics, a lot of slash and burn, no real scientific knowledge, and a little bit barbaric. But in reality I was completely wrong. The farmers in PR are business people, trying to make a living in some very challenging markets. There definitely are a few farmers that are more successful than others, and that basically is related to location and soil type. PR’s major AG crops that I observed include: coffee, oranges, bananas, plantains, pineapples, and eggs.

I consumed more oranges in PR in ten days than I think I have in my whole life. Now, when I was there the oranges weren’t in season, but the “natives” taught us a trick. You pick an orange when it is green and either cut it in half or peel it with a knife. Then you suck on it!! The juices were so sweet and sticky it was amazing. I was addicted, every farm we went to seemed to have a few orange trees and all the farmers were so kind. They shared as much as they could with my class. Which brings me to something else that I learned in PR, almost everyone has fruit trees in their yards, oranges, limes, lemons, bread fruit, etc. This is a good way to reduce food costs!! I am definitely jealous, I would love to be able to have an orange tree in my yard and I know I could if I move, but I love PA to much for that!!!
Orange Tree Research at USDA ARS in PR

This is just the beginning of my eye opening experience – future blogs will include more of my adventure!!!

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