An Agricultural Journey: Casey Shawver, Agricultural Sciences


Posted: October 19, 2014

Traveling to a country so economically and geographically close to the United States and learning so much about their agricultural makeup has helped me become a well-rounded student with a greater knowledge of global agriculture.

Over the past 10 days I’ve had the most eye-opening experience of my life. Traveling to our neighboring country of Mexico, that we have close import-export relations with, has proved to be the most relevant experience I’ve ever had in relation to agriculture. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives that we forget how important the world around us is. Not only is the world around us important, but the working relations we have with others as well. This is why I found the trip to Guanajuato, Mexico so educational from an informational standpoint but also for life lesson experience. 

 For the duration of the trip we worked with college students from the University of Guanajuato and we toured many places that related to Mexico’s agricultural industry and its rich history. Guanajuato is a quaint, tightly knit city. It isn’t like a city you would picture here in the United States.

It’ full of bright colors, grandmothers selling fresh baked goods at their front doors, and people playing music everywhere! Guanajuato is also a hub for rich history. This is the location of the fight for Mexican Independence, the home of Miguel Hidalgo, and where silver mines are plentiful. 

Due to the rich history of Guanajuato we toured many things pertaining to it. We visited a tequila factory called, “Hacienda Corallejo” which was the ranch that Miguel Hidalgo had grown up on! We also visited several museums and landmarks related to this man. Just to put it in context, he is the equivalent to George Washington in the United States. We also toured some cultural locations which included the silver mines, a majolica factory (pottery), and ancient Mayan ruins.

The core of our trip was my favorite part, exploring Mexican agriculture. We kept busy throughout the week with tours almost every day. The state of Guanajuato is famous for 2 things; strawberries and broccoli. Eighty percent of broccoli imports from Mexico come straight from Guanajuato, because of that we had the amazing opportunity to tour Green Giant! This was an extremely fascinating tour seeing broccoli go from seed all the way until it’s processed and bagged for shipping. As for the strawberries, we toured a 32 acre high tunnel facility. Mexico is responsible for a large number of strawberry imports to the United States in the winter time.

In Mexico, there is another crop that reigns supreme to all others. That plant is called agave or as the natives would call it, “miracle plant.” You may be familiar with its association with tequila, but in Mexico it’s used in so many other things! We toured three different agave facilities including the National Genome Laboratory where they hold the genome of the native agave plant. We learned through lectures, tours, and hands on activities that agave is used for its nectar to make sugar, sweeteners, and drinks as well as bio-fuel and agave honey. What’s extremely fascinating is these plants use barely any water at all for growth and they have no natural pests so they require virtually no pesticide. 

Other agricultural facilities we toured were a milk processing factory, the University of Guanajuato sustainability farm, and a small village to speak to them about their agricultural practices.

GuanajuatoThe tours were great, but what made them exceptional was that we toured with the students from the University of Guanajuato who also were agricultural majors! It was an experience in itself to communicate and learn from these people. They were surprisingly great at English, too! We spent most of our bus rides comparing lifestyles, asking questions, laughing, and learning how to say things in another language. By the end of the week we simply did not want to say good-bye. However, we did connect via social media and are still keeping in contact. Also, an opportunity is in the works to have an exchange program with the University of Guanajuato language department to become a more fluent speaker. I’m not sure if this is an opportunity I will take but it’s great to have the resources.

The skills I’ve gained from this trip are more beneficial than I could ever imagine. During the trip I gained communication skills with a language barrier. Without language, it’s extremely hard to get the other person to understand what you are trying to communicate. By day 10, I was getting much better and felt more comfortable in a new environment. Also, I now have an international trip under my belt which means I can travel by myself to seek new opportunities in the future. Lastly, I’ve gained a plethora of overall knowledge of global agriculture and specifically, Mexico. This will be most important in my career working with crops in my agricultural sciences degree with a focus in agronomy.

If I were to explain this experience to a future employer I would describe it in one statement. “Traveling to a country so economically and geographically close to the United States and learning so much about their agricultural makeup has helped me become a well-rounded student with a greater knowledge of global agriculture.”