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Embracing Adventure: Honduras - Janae Herr

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Posted: January 16, 2015

Janae is a Agriculture and Extension Education Major, with International Agriculture & Agribusiness Management Minors. Tell me the next time I, a small town farmer’s daughter, will ever have a chance to explore a coffee farm on top of a beautiful Honduran mountain? Or when a future agriculture educator like me will get the chance to wake up before the sun and milk cows with students across the globe and comparing milking practices.
Visiting the coffee farm on top of the mountain.  Honduras never failed to provide gorgeous views!

Visiting the coffee farm on top of the mountain. Honduras never failed to provide gorgeous views!

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Janae Herr. I am a homegrown, born and raised, true-blue farmer’s daughter. Ever since I can remember the farm was my place. The farm was, and still is, where I relax, what brings me joy, and where I found me. Underneath the dirt and the grime and the sweet smell of the cows I uncovered me; my passion; my identity. If I had it my way, I would spend all my days for the rest of my life on that farm; working the land beside my dad and my grandfather – my heroes. However, as I grew older I became more and more aware of this passion for the agricultural industry that was brewing in my soul. You cannot ignore something like that. My passion for agriculture would frequently come spilling out, covering those around me. With that, I discovered that I loved to share my passion with those around me. Better yet, I loved opportunities where my passion for agriculture influenced those around me to take their passion for our shared industry and do the same. One career shadowing day later and I knew that my cherished days on the farm were preparing me for the classroom. By becoming an Agriculture Educator I will have the opportunity to successfully advocate for the field I am so fervent about.  A field that I have grown up in, a field that I engross myself into every day, and a field that I plan to spend my future investing into.

So where then, does the classroom meet Honduras you ask? Upon entering college, I chose to supplement my desired degree in Agriculture Education with minors in the area of Agribusiness Management and International Agriculture. I chose Agribusiness Management for some technical education tools to take to the classroom and International Agriculture because I desired to develop my global competency. I anxiously anticipated the adventures that this minor would allow me to embark upon. With that, doors opened to enroll in CED499B: Local Economic and Agricultural Development in Honduras.  After several exciting and informative class sessions, nine Penn Students and Faculty left a cold wintery State College and headed to Zamorano University in the Yeguare Valley of Honduras. You could consider Zamorano the equivalent of a Land Grant University here in the states. They operate by a “learning by doing” model, Agriculture Education in its simplest, most effective terms.

Over the course of the week we had the opportunity to visit several different, small communities in the valley around Zamorano. Some communities we visited, like Ojojona we observed their efforts to grow the tourism industry there with plans to increase the community’s income because of such. We also visited two local elementary schools, comparing their learning environments and the impact that the national government had on them. We also enjoyed a hike through a biological reserve that Zamorano oversees, talk about a view! Along with all that and more the class participated in multiple different farm tours, all of which Zamorano is partnering with in those respective communities to help them better their current practices, increase their yields, preserve their resources and ultimately become more sustainable and make a profit.

This trip was my first time out of the country, and what better way to travel then with Penn State. The connections the University has across the globe and specifically through Zamorano allowed us to partake in some incredible and extremely unique experiences. Tell me the next time I, a small town farmer’s daughter will ever have a chance to explore a coffee farm on top of a beautiful Honduran mountain? Or when a future agriculture educator like me will get the chance to wake up before the sun and milk cows with students across the globe and comparing milking practices in my extremely broken Spanish and their mildly rusty English?

This embedded course to Honduras allowed me to explore global agriculture at a hands-on level. They say experience is the best teacher, by having this opportunity to travel across the globe and witness these communities, farmers, producers and students I obtained a wealth of knowledge that I anxiously anticipate the opportunity when I will get to take these experiences and stories to my future classroom. This trip also taught me to think creatively and critically when aiming to design solutions for problems that many of these rural communities are facing. More than anything, my experience with Penn State in Honduras taught me to embrace adventure. A wise, anonymous individual once said that “life begins outside our comfort zone.” My whole life has been, is being and will continue to be touched by agriculture, but my “agriculture comfort zone” is on my farm, working the same ground and milking the same cows that generations before me have. Little did I know that adventures to Honduras would open my eyes to endless opportunities and a bright future for the global agriculture industry!

I am quite confident that my future holds a classroom full of students who will be counting on me to prepare them for the workforce, for college and for changing the agriculture world as we know it. This trip opened my eyes to a lot of up and coming issues in the areas of economic development, global agribusiness and more. As a future Agricultural Educator, I will have the responsibility of preparing my students, who are the future of fields like Environmental Resources and Agriculture Research. What better way for me to teach them then with my first hand experiences?!