I love when my hobbies in life can collide. At the start of this month I was able to combine my love for traveling with my love for agriculture. My husband and I took off for Mexico for a short getaway, a short conference, and a whole lot of sun!
Bayer Crop Science has been a company that I have always been impressed with, but not more than in the past few years. As a chemical company it might seem easy to stick their heads in the sand and just do what they have always done, which is provide safe and effective products for farmers all over the world, Bayer however is looking around at world wide agriculture and seeing that there are conversations that need to start happening. Their commitment to agriculture goes beyond just the farmer, they work for the bees, the crops, and the soil. Their slogan of “Science for a Better Life” is being played out right now at the forefront of their efforts.
So on our little getaway we attended Bayer’s Horticulture Symposium. Attended mostly by industry folks and farmers from all the Americas. Along with Matt and I, Marie Bowers Stagg (OregonGreen Blogger) and her husband Tristan also attended to represent the Pacific Northwest. It was interesting being at a conference where we had to listen through the voice of a translator for most of the presentations, but more interesting was that the challenges that people are facing all over the world are challenges that I am facing on my farm in Oregon. The life of a farmer isn’t easy, pests find your crop no matter what, and learning new and innovative ways to take care of that pest is something that all farmers are looking for. Another issue that was talked about at length was the challenge with finding good consistent sources of labor, a problem that has prompted more creativeness when it comes to robotics and machinery.
It wasn’t all about our problems out on the farm though. We heard presentations about what customers around the world are looking for. They like quality shown to them in certifications and standards, traceability, sustainability, and social responsibility. So finding ways to balance all of that while at the same time encouraging the next generation of farmers, improving people’s lives and livelihoods, and taking care of the environment will be an ongoing conversation for as long as I’m farming I am sure. It is encouraging though to see that these are real conversations that people are having on so many levels, from the dirt up you could say.
We were also fortunate enough to head out into Mexico for some farm touring. We met a jack fruit farmer and a mango farmer. Jack fruit is a large (watermelon sized) fruit that is grown in trees. You won’t believe it until you see it! 95% of the jack fruit grown in Mexico is exported to the US, where it can be found in almost any Asian market across the country.
I know, I know…let the jokes of “It looks like you swallowed a jack fruit” begin!
Mangoes on the other hand are largely consumed in Mexico. Only 35% of the mango production heads off to the export market. In the photo below is a 20 year orchard of mango trees. To harvest the fruit, which grows throughout the very tall canopy, no ladders are used. Just really good tree climbers, long poles for reach, and harnesses to keep from falling!
I did say there was a lot of sun involved and while it was a bit hot and humid for someone 7 1/2 months pregnant, it was still a great time to getaway! We did go fishing one day and had a small amount of luck, the break from the humidity on land though was worth every second!
I can’t thank our field man Barry Duerk from Bayer enough for inviting us to come and enjoy this experience of learning more about agriculture around the world, but also what they are looking at from their perspective. I don’t think that there are easy conversations when it comes to how to best serve all parties involved in the agriculture industry. It’s a complex system filled with farmers, pests, consumers, marketers and above all the ongoing challenge of getting enough food to feed the world. I don’t think you can ignore the pure politics or complicated nature that gets injected into every piece of that puzzle. But what I think we can do is keep having these conversations and keep working to find that balance that will probably never be fully achieved, but can always be improved and worked towards. From what I saw on our trip south of the border, Bayer is going to be a player in these conversations for a long time to come!