This past week I experienced a trip of a lifetime learning about agriculture in Ecuador. The Red River Valley Ag Peer Group had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador where we meet with area farmers, researchers, and business owners. We were able to see first hand many agricultural practices and be immersed into the Ecuador culture. Below is a recap of some of the experiences we had each day.
Ecuador day 1
Traveled, visited Stone Mountain on our layover in Atlanta, flew to Ecuador, saw the local cathedral and basilica, ate authentic food, saw the middle of the Equator, sampled local chocolate and coffee, tried the local delicacy of guinea pig, and started understanding the culture.
Ecuador Day 2
Toured The National Institute of Ag Research, saw first hand urban expansion, traveled to a research farm where we walked corn plots and discussed the soil (volcanic) and also looked at different production methods for dry beans. Then we were treated to a traditional specialty drink called colada morada (purple drink) made of a special corn variety and also tamales. After we traveled back to the institute and we learned about wheat production. Then saw a seed production facility of certified seed (wheat, dry beans, corn, and quinoa). We wrapped the day up with a session on potato production and research. Blight and purple top disease have challenged the Ecuadorian potato growers. We enjoyed having the opportunity to taste their healthy specialty potato chips (puca shungo).
Ecuador Day 3
First we met with “World Food Program” and they talked about their programs to try to solve world hunger and the importance of education along with it. Next we met with “Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN” and learned about their views on the UN’s goals and how sustainability is their big focus. Wheat is not a widely produced crop in Ecuador, so imports are scheduled of hard-red spring wheat from Canada for pasta and soft red winter wheat from the US for cookies. Finally we had the opportunity to tour “Superior” a pasta/cookie/cracker factory that mills all of their own wheat. We saw the milling, dough mixing, baking, pasta processing, and packaging. Wow what a day!
Ecuador day 4
This morning we stopped at the local market to see their hand made crafts and art. Following that we spent the day with local farmers. Three brothers showed us their crops and test plots. The RRV Ag Peer Group each presented about our prospective farms and how we are engaged in agriculture back home. Farm policy, fertilizer application, no-till farming and cover crops were discussed also. More than 94 local Ecuadorian farmers and their families attended the event. They prepared us a FEAST with a whole roasted hog and performed a native dance. We then traveled to a local farm supply store where we learned about cost of feed and seed. Finally we traveled to a local waterfall (Cascadas de Peguche) to see some of Ecuador’s most beautiful sights!
Ecuador Day 5
Today we walked to the local food market where we were able to see their stations selling seafood, fruits, vegetables, and numerous types of harvested animals. It was interesting to see how their day to day markets work and all the ways they prepare the food for consumption. Then we traveled to “Esmeralda” a flower farm. We were able to walk through their huge green houses full of roses and many other flowers and bouquet fillers. They showed us how they package their flowers for sales in the US at places like Wal-Mart! After that we began our travels to Santa Damingo where were got stuck on the side of a road for a few hours due to the land slide.
Ecuador Day 6
Our last day was another day filled with learning. We toured another National Institute of Ag research facility where we learned about palm tree oil, rubber trees, CACAO (cocoa beans), and banana trees. Then we went to a chocolate factory, where we saw the process of converting Cacao beans into chocolate and we able to try their many flavors. We also saw coffee beans on the trees.
It was an honor to tour with the rest of the Red River Valley Ag Peer Group and we now have an overview of farming in Ecuador compared to the US. One of the big differences in Ecaudor is that they do not have a strong extension program. Joel Ransom, NDSU Extension Small Grains Agronomist, is working to improve extension in Ecaudor with a non-profit called “Join Hands”.
**Thank you to the sponsors of the Red River Valley Ag Peer Group which included: Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Wheat, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and Your Source of Growth Fund. The Ag Peer Group was started in 2017 with 30 young agricultural professionals who meet several times each year to learn from one another and grow in their leadership. Nine members were involved in this 2019 Ecaudor trip. We all appreciate your support for young leaders in agriculture!
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