My vision for our booth is having a table set up with a sort of prequiz that people will take when they first come to the booth. After completing this quiz they will take a “Walk Through Puerto Rico”. There will be three stations set up. They will have multiple monitors playing videos of our experiences while on our trip. The videos will be split up into the categories of beaches/coral reefs, our hiking adventures and agriculture. This video is an example of the kind of video that could possibly be displayed for the agriculture section. It discusses what we learned about coffee production while on our trip. The material is simplified so that all types of audience will be able to follow along. Each video will have a sort voice over with details about what is in the video as well as other sound effects to make it seem more realistic. After going through each station, the visitors will end at the final table. At this table there will be a blooper video playing with music. Also, there will be candy and students to talk with everybody. Maybe we could have other decorations to draw attention such as a hammock or coconuts what have you. I think that if we combine all of our talents together we will make an amazing booth to display at the open house.
Whenever I travel I am always surprised with how Americanized other countries are and the same goes for my trip to Puerto Rico. It shocks me how many people can speak and understand English outside of the United States. Even the music we heard while in Puerto Rico was a lot of the top American hits such as Justin Bieber or Adele. A lot of popular American businesses can be found all over the island like Wendy’s, Burger King, Walgreen’s what have you. It was kind of sad how easily people could tell that were tourists. Even when we tried to speak Spanish they would see right through it. But their generosity was outstanding. Once they found out that we were students from the United States they were very gracious and kind. Many were intrigued about who we were, what we were doing and where we were going. The thing that I cannot get used to in Puerto Rico is the driving. It is absolutely crazy! No one listens to stop lights or uses turn signals and U-turns are perfectly fine. That is something that has definitely shocked me while being here. The University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez reminded me a lot of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Both campuses are very pretty and spread-out. Sports are taking very seriously at both schools. Also, both universities are known for their agriculture studies.
Something that I thought was cool that I have noticed about Puerto Rico is that they are very proud and supportive of their country. When you would go to a restaurant they would serve the residents first. The local stands were always more busy than the chain American restaurants. This loyalty is something that America is greatly lacking.
My favorite part of this trip has been enjoying the beaches and the water. The snorkeling tour that we did was the most relaxing thing that I have ever done. La Playa Sucia has a very misleading name because it is positively gorgeous. I could not get over the beauty of that beach as the sun was setting, as you can see in one of the many pictures that I took that day below. It is surely something that everyone needs to witness at some point in their life. I have never been a very beachy person until I went on this trip. Now floating in the water or sitting in the sand sounds like the most wonderful thing to do. Going back to the cold and snow of the Illinoisan winter is going to be very difficult after being here for two weeks.
Attending this trip has been one of the best decisions of my life. Being able to explore a new country and culture has been wonderful. I fed the fish in the ocean, as shown below, while eating a delicious homegrown steak with fried plantains; that is something that you cannot do in the States. Telling other students about our home and school was so rewarding. Being able to visit with them and teach them things about Illinois outside of Chicago and the Bulls team was worth it. Learning about agriculture in other countries has helped me become more of a global engineer. This trip will benefit me throughout my life. The global knowledge and cultural awareness that I have will push me through my career. I am very grateful for all of the marvelous people that have made this trip both fun and educational. I encourage everyone to do a study abroad at some point in their college time. Regardless of where or how long, any trip will be far more beneficial than imagined. I am so very blessed to have been able to study in Puerto Rico.
After touring many different farms in Puerto Rico I have seen that there occur a lot of key differences when looking at the different parts of the agriculture production system in Puerto Rico and the United States that we can discuss in our booths. An obvious difference would be in the type of crops that are grown. In Illinois, the major crops are corn, soybeans and wheat while in Puerto Rico the main ones are coffee, plantain, sugarcane and tropical fruits. Additionally, the growing seasons vary tremendously. Since Puerto Rico maintains a fairly consistent climate all year, some farms have been able to accomplish a year-round growing season allowing more product to be sold. The United States’ seasons are severely shortened by the varying temperatures throughout the year. The ways these crops are harvested differ between the two places. For example, in the United States there is a machine for harvesting almost every kind of crop while in Puerto Rico most of the produce is collected by hand. Looking at the livestock side of agriculture, there is almost none in Puerto Rico. The livestock is so poor in Puerto Rico that no one wants to have any. Coming from an animal farm, I find the differences in the small amount of livestock that there is fascinating. The fact that these animals can be specifically bred to withstand the heat of Puerto Rico is exceptional to me.
Where Puerto Rico has the edge over the United States is in their agricultural practices that are safer for the environment. Some of the managers of Martex farms explained to us some of the methods that they use to protect the beautiful nature in Puerto Rico. They use a lot of solar and wind energy to power their operation as seen in the picture below. They recycle the poorer quality fruit as feed for their cattle. We observed more techniques at the coffee farms. They let the sun dry their beans to save fossil fuels. Their fertilizer comes from the discarded shells on the beans. It seems that farms in Puerto Rico do not use chemicals that often which is different from most of the farms in the United States. I think that in terms of being environmentally friendly the United States could learn a lot from the farmers in Puerto Rico.
I believe what Martex Farms is doing with the University of Puerto Rico is very important. They are working together to conduct experiments that are going to reduce the amount of nitrogen that they apply. They let us take part in the experiment as seen in the photo below. Experiments like these are imperative because they educate the people of Puerto Rico about agriculture and can help repair the industry in Puerto Rico. A lot of the people of Puerto Rico have a negative view of agriculture because of the poor following it has. This collaboration between Martex and the university is the start of fixing this negative connotation. The same goes for the studies that the University of Illinois is doing as well. They can both help mend the bad reputation that farmers are starting to get in both areas.
While talking to people about our experiences during our study in Puerto Rico, I think it is important to explain how the issues that we are facing in the United States are global issues and not just national issues. Climate change has had some major impacts in both places. In Puerto Rico it is changing the growing seasons for many crops especially coffee. This has resulted in an extreme drop in the amount of crop produced. In Illinois the seasons have differed greatly from year to year by going from droughts to floods or scalding heat to frigid cold which has, in turn, impacted the planting and harvesting of crops. Also, consumer issues are evident in both environments. Both places are fighting the war of local versus commercial food. Knowing that these are shared issues can help reach a solution quicker.
Hello, I am Bobbi Toepper and I am a freshman majoring in Agricultural and Biological Engineering with a minor in Animal Science at the University of Illinois. When comparing the agriculture industry in Illinois and Puerto Rico I hope to provide valuable insights. Being raised on a farm in Illinois my whole life I will be able to contribute details about agriculture in Illinois that other people may not know. Also, I have attended Explore ACES before and that was what helped me pick this field of study. I know the kind of audience we will have and what will attract them to our booth and can help create the booth knowing this information. I am excited to be studying here in gorgeous Puerto Rico!