PHOTO: Courtesy of Chad Lee
A group of Kentucky farmers and graduate students in the University of Kentucky College Agriculture, Food and Environment now have international agriculture experience.
They took a weeklong trip to Argentina, organized by Chad Lee, UK grain crops specialist and Lucas Borras, adjunct professor of crop production at the National University of Rosario in Argentina.
“I want to help improve the agriculture system in Kentucky,” Lee said. “Everyone on the trip got to see a different approach to production agriculture. When you see things done in a different way, it can help you view your operation or research from a different perspective and find areas for improvement.”
The graduate students were from the college’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. Farmers who attended were alumni of the CORE Farmer Program, the Kentucky Corn Growers’ Association’s Crop Observation and Research Education program. The program is a leadership and technology course for young farmers.
“I believe we saw what the future of farm business management will soon look like for the best farms here in the U.S.,” said Chris Kummer, a farmer from Franklin. “I have been farming 23 years and have had the opportunity to be involved in many innovative projects using the newest technology, but what I saw on this trip changed the way I am now approaching my business.”
Ray Allan Mackey, president of the Kentucky Corn Growers’ Association said the trip was an opportunity of a lifetime for the young farmers.
“These young members of the Kentucky Corn Growers’ Association will be producing grain for export markets in competition with South American farmers for their entire careers,” he said. “We see great value to Kentucky’s overall farm community in understanding the farming practices, logistical systems and government structure of their Argentine counterparts. Now these farmers’ task is to share their perspectives with as many of their peers in Kentucky as possible.”
Agriculture in Argentina is very different from agriculture in the United States; it is a risky endeavor, as farmers there do not have government subsidies. To reduce their risks, farmers form groups called Regional Consortiums of Agriculture Experimentation, also known as CREA. The groups, usually comprised of eight to 12 members, compare production and economic notes, share research and critique each other’s operations. They also hire an adviser who visits each operation and provides farmers with personalized recommendations.
“We do not realize how good we have it in American agriculture,” said John Orlowski, a UK graduate student. “The reason that we are able to compete with countries like Argentina is due to our government and the investments the U.S. is willing to make in infrastructure such as roads, ports and rails.”
While in the South American country, the group visited the University of Rosario and agribusinesses. They also visited with grain farmers in CREA groups in the Humid Pampas region of Argentina, which has the country’s most fertile farmland. The Argentine producers were willing to discuss their successes and challenges with their North American counterparts.
The participants not only interacted with Argentinian farmers, but they also interacted with each other.
“Our students could talk with the farmers about what they’re struggling with here and learn how that could apply to their research,” Lee said.
While participants were responsible for most of the costs of the trip, the Kentucky Corn Growers’ Association Board assisted in some of the funding.
As a result of the trip, Borras brought a group of Argentine CREA advisers to visit UK this summer. A couple of Kentucky farmers on the trip were able to host the Argentines in exchange.
Chad Lee, 859-257-3203