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Young Grower Alliance Ag Delegation Discovers Mutual Learning Opportunities in Nicaragua

Ashlyn Burkholder, President of the Battlefield FFA chapter, writes an article about her experiences while part of the Agricultural Delegation to Nicaragua this year.
Ashlyn beginning their canning demonstration.

Ashlyn beginning their canning demonstration.

I recently had an amazing opportunity to travel to Nicaragua as part of an agricultural exchange between Project Gettysburg-León (PGL), the Penn State Extension Young Grower Alliance, and our Battlefield FFA Chapter. The trip was designed to have us learn more about the Nicaraguan culture and to have us assist PGL with their ongoing projects, especially those that deal with the support for three young ag extensionists. On December 3, 2015, Advisor: Mr. Tindall, Vice-President: Olivia Staub, and myself, Ashlyn Burkholder, President of the Battlefield FFA chapter, met with three representatives from the Young Grower Alliance to travel to Managua, Nicaragua. In Managua, we met Project Gettysburg-León representatives, Carlos and Yessica, who operate from León. Throughout the week until December 10, we spent our days together touring and learning the history about each city that we traveled to. It was important for us to not only learn about the background and understand what made each city the way it is today but also, to see the effect that different historical events had on the cities and the people who live there. It was such a rewarding and impactful trip, that I will definitely never forget.

From traveling the extremely steep hills up to the village of Talolinga in the bed of the PGL truck, to hiking and skipping rocks into a waterfall in Esteli, the memories made are unforgettable. Whether we were standing on top of the cathedral in León looking out across the city or standing around the mouth of the Masaya Volcano looking down into the smoke and embers, every sight was breath taking. The views were indescribable wherever we travelled, from the mountain side to the inner cities. It was an amazing experience to see their culture celebrate Purisima and compare it to our celebrations we have back here in the States. Getting used to the fireworks going off at all hours of the day was something that was a little different.

Being able to stay up in Talolinga where the extensionists’ families live and seeing how they live their day to day lives was inspiring. The fact that they may have so little material items compared to us back here does not measure near as much to the amount of pride and compassion they have towards their community, crops, and schooling. I think that something that we all took away from this trip is that it doesn’t always matter what materialistic things you have. If you are passionate about what you are doing, what you believe, and carry a desire to pursue your dreams, it can all be yours. As a student it was eye opening to see the journey the extensionists have to make each day to get an education. They wake up at three in the morning to hike hours to get to the first bus station and then continue to ride several other buses till they finally get to school at eight o’clock. They leave school around four in the afternoon to start their journey home and usually do not get home till about ten o’clock at night. Then, they have to complete their homework that they may have, take care of their responsibilities around the house, care for their crops and animals, and after all of that is completed, get some sleep. When Olivia and I returned back to school, we realized just how fortunate we are with the supplies we are provided with and how lucky we are that we do not have to wake up at three in the morning and make that couple hour hike each morning just to get to school.

The three extensionists, Marvin, Edward, and Javier were all so welcoming and ecstatic to show us how they did things where they come from. Javier showed us his farm in El Charco and how he produced 4,200 pounds of tomatoes in the first round this year. We had the chance to see the school in Talolinga where each student is growing their own pineapples and toured Edward and Marvin’s personal gardens to see all the different crops they were growing. Not only did the young scholars teach us about how they do things but they were very eager to learn from us about our school and how we learn about and practice various methods of agriculture. Olivia and I gave a presentation to them on canning foods and how that is one way of preservation they can practice so that they are able to enjoy some foods like tomatoes longer in the season. It was great that there were many mutual learning experiences on the trip, both a give and a take. I obtained so much information in just a short amount of time, staying there for eight days. It was important for us not just to go and see the poverty that exists there but to also take away so much more—seeing how beautiful Nicaragua is and the many reasons why Nicaraguans and people that travel there love it so much. I look forward to keeping in touch with the extensionists and seeing the progress that they make on their projects. I am very thankful to have had this opportunity and I would absolutely go back again if I could.

Prepared by Ashlyn Burkholder, Gettysburg High School FFA