Mike Romano Puerto Rico Blog 3


I took a different approach to this blog post, and made a blog that would represent a conversation I would have with a visitor at open house. I feel that our main goal at open house is to educate our visitors in creative and engaging ways. This blog post, I made a video of images I took during our visit to Cafe Gran Batey which was a coffee farm in Puerto Rico that produced very high quality coffee. Before the trip, I was unfamiliar with the process of harvesting and producing coffee. I feel like many of our visitors, especially kids, will also be unaware of the process and I think it is important to show them how it works considering the coffee industry in Puerto Rico is one of its largest. Basically, my vision for open house is to attract as many visitors as possible, and to explain to them our experience and what we learned. I feel that with a process like this video above, it will be easier for our audience to understand our experience through explanation with pictures. I feel that this type of video, along with our previous ideas we discussed as a group, I think we can effectively engage with our visitors and make it a fun experience for all of our visitors.

Global Perspectives- Mike Romano

Michael Romano

Sitting here on our last night here in Puerto Rico, I’m beginning to reflect on the experiences I’ve had over the last week and a half on the island. One of the biggest takeaways I’ll bring back is the influences on my perspectives of global issues. Primarily, the influences of my views of agriculture. Before the trip, when I was to think of the topic of agriculture, the first thing I would think of is a huge corn field in central Illinois with a big green John Deere tractor harvesting the crops.When I thought of the word farming, I primarily only envisioned corn, wheat, soybean, and other midwestern crops. During my experiences here, I’ve been presented a entirely different agricultural system than in Illinois. Before taking this course, I had never seriously considered the types of agriculture in this area. However, after my experiences in Puerto Rico and after studying the agricultural systems in place on the island, I understand there are a variety of other types of agricultural systems around the world.

For example, before coming the the island, I had little idea how coffee was produced or what a coffee tree even looked like. After visiting two coffee plantations, I now understand how rigorous the coffee harvesting process is and how dependent it is on climate and water. This can become a global issue, as it has over the last two years. This is because the climate became unpredictable, as it was raining when it was supposed to be dry, and it was dry when it was supposed to be raining. There were harsh implications  because of this. The coffee bean industry in Puerto Rico could only produce nearly twenty five percent of the island’s demand for consumption. This became an issue that is most likely common throughout the world, because like Puerto Rico, the climatal conditions do not provide for the island’s demands and therefore the island needed to import the majority of their coffee. This leads into the next global influence, quality control.

An important global issue that this trip has influenced my perspectives on is quality control. In the case of the coffee farm Cafe Gran Batey, they only produced their coffee with the highest quality of coffee beans. Then, they sell the lower quality beans to large coffee corporations such as Folgers and Maxwell House. (Sorry to say, but your home coffee brands such as these are lower quality coffee beans :)…) Quality is extremely important in the coffee industry because wealthy people are willing to pay a lot of money for the highest quality coffee beans. In fact, in some areas, these wealthy spenders even visit the coffee farms in order to see the quality of the beans for themselves. This is a common process throughout the entire world. People are willing to pay large sums of money for the highest quality of products. Therefore it is important to have a large focus on quality control as it has a direct relationship with the amount of profit.

Another process I observed in Puerto Rico that changed my perspective on a global issue is waste management. At Cafe Gran Batey, I feel as though their agricultural strategy was very sustainable. This is because they have a use for every part of their harvest and very little goes to waste. First, they sell their highest quality coffee. Second, they sell the lower quality beans to large corporations with lower grade coffee. Then, they use all the natural waste and the shells of the beans as fertilizer for the other coffee trees. This is an example of a system that utilizes almost all of their materials in order to be sustainable and practices like these should be considered globally in order to help the environment.

Coffee beans drying inside of the greenhouse

Coffee beans drying inside of the greenhouse

Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 preset

Cafe Gran Batey

Michael Romano Blog 2- Puerto Rico Experience Surprises

Michael Romano


Throughout the last week or so here in Puerto Rico, a lot of things have surprised me. One of the first things that surprised me was the distinctive cultural difference between the island and the continental United States. The initial surprise to me was the amount of spanish spoken. I know that Puerto Rico has two official languages, English and Spanish, but I anticipated there would be a lot of people speaking English considering Puerto Rico is a United States Territory. Surprisingly, the wide majority of people on the island primarily speak Spanish. I found it most interesting when I went to a fast food restaurant, and many of the employees couldn’t speak English despite it being an official language of the island. However, I’ve come to realize the reason for this is the strength of the Pu
erto Rican culture. I’m very intrigued by the amount of pride that Puerto Ricans take in their culture, despite still being considered a territory of the United States. But after doing further research into the history of the island, I learned that Puerto Rico was a Spanish territory until the Spanish American War, and therefore I believe that is the reason Spanish influences and the Spanish language is primarily present. Another thing that surprised me about Puerto Rico is their relations with the United States. Puerto Rico has to pay United States federal taxes, despite not being to vote for the President or have a vote in congress. I was also surprised that people born in Puerto Rico are considered United States citizens.

Another aspect of Puerto Rico that surprised me was the geography of the island. Despite the island only being roughly 3500 square miles, there are many geographical differences between areas of the island. Prior to coming to the island, I envisioned a tropical climate with nice beaches and beautiful rainforests. For example, the first area of the island we stayed on was a town called Fajardo. Fajardo met these expectations in the fullest, being located on the northeast side of the island, in between El Yunque National Forest and the coast. This area was predominantly mountains and rainforests. However, after a few days on the Eastern side of Puerto Rico, we traveled the the far Western side of the island to the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez. During this drive, we passed through the southern part of the island around the town of Ponce. This area had a much more arid climate, and was much more dry and hot. I did not expect Puerto Rico to have such a significant area of the island with this climate.

In addition, the food surprised me in PuertoRico. I did not necessarily know what to expect before coming to Puerto Rico in regards to food. However I was pleasantly surprised with the food on the island. The cuisine of the island seems to be a combination of other cuisines from other areas such as Spain, Mexico, and the native culture. There is a variety of fruits, seafood, and other meats. Some of my favorite local foods that I had not had before coming to the island that surprised me were tostones, chicken mofongo, empanadas, and rice and beans. But by far, the chicken mofongo was my favorite of them all. The sweetness of the fried plantains along with the chicken and red pepper may have been some of the tastiest food I have ever had.

Puerto Rico has been full of surprisesand I have enjoyed our time on the island so far and I’m looking forward to our final days on the island. Here is some media I have taken during the trip.




Figure 1: Waterfall in El Yunque National forest that we were able to climb.


Figure 2: Coffee produced at the Cafe Gran Battey that smelled and tasted delicious.

Mike Romano’s Role for the Project

My name is Mike Romano and I’m an Agricultural and Biological Engineering student at the University of Illinois. My classmates and I are currently studying agricultural systems on the island of Puerto Rico, particularly in the sugarcane industry. I feel that my role in the project is to develop items to enhance our presentation and display. I will do this by documenting our trip and studies using images and video from my GoPro camera, as well as helping develop our poster and hands on activity and experience for our presentation and guests.Michael Romano