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Azorean Adventures by Sydney Jewell, Animal Science Major, International Agriculture Minor

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Posted: November 12, 2018

As part of this embedded course, I had the opportunity to visit two islands of the nine-island Azorean archipelago and the capital of Portugal. This trip was my first time abroad and I loved every minute of it.
Me in Algar do Carvão, a lava-less volcano on Terceira.

Me in Algar do Carvão, a lava-less volcano on Terceira.

As part of this embedded course, I had the opportunity to visit two islands of the nine-island Azorean archipelago and the capital of Portugal. This trip was my first time abroad and I loved every minute of it. Of the three places we visited (São Miguel, Terceira, and Lisbon), Terceira was hands down my favorite. This is probably because it is where most of our agricultural experiences were concentrated. The main reason this course appealed to me was that it focused on looking at the very unique pasture-based dairy industry on the Azores. The islands produce about one-third of all of Portugal’s milk. This is amazing to think about because collectively they have less land mass than Rhode Island. I was interested to see how the dairy industry could be so different than the U.S.’s and still so productive.

The most memorable part of the trip was our visit Queijo Vaquinha, a local cheese company on Terceira. This visit was the first time on the trip that we got to do anything related to the dairy industry and I loved finally being able to interact with the animals. We got to the farm a 6 a.m. in order to see the morning milking. It was interesting to see that it was pretty much the same as what we do in the U.S. At their farm, I got to milk a cow for the first time, play with and bottle feed some adorable jersey calves, and feed a goat kid. We also got to see the company’s cheese processing factory. It was really interesting to learn how all that cheese we had been eating was made. It surprised me how much machinery it takes to make a wheel of cheese.

My second favorite experience of the trip was visiting and getting to walk down into a volcano, Algar do Carvão. This was a unique experience that can only be done in very few places in the world, Terceira being one of them. The chimney was lined with beautifully patterned walls of oranges and yellows and ended in a crystal clear blue lagoon. There was a moment that the sunlight caught the dewdrops falling down from the vegetation lining the opening of the volcano and it looked truly magical.   

The main reason I was excited to go to the Azores was to see the differences between their dairy industry and the U.S.’s. The main difference was obvious from just driving around the island. There were more numerous, smaller producers who relied much more heavily on pasture. The islands, especially Terceira, had unique landscapes of extensive pasture with each land plot separated by stone walls. Another stark difference was that there were very few barn structures or milking parlors. Cows were often milked in the pasture with mobile milking carts and the producer was responsible for bringing his own milk tank to milk collection stations. There were no milk trucks coming around to empty the farm’s bulk tank.

Getting to see a completely different version of an industry I felt familiar with opened my eyes to new possibilities. Seeing that there are different ways of doing things, whether or not they are right, reassured me that solutions to new problems can be found. Having this experience will help me moving forward by broadening my perspective on the topics I will be learning about in the future of my animal science education. In addition, I learned a lot about myself. Because of this trip, I now feel comfortable taking more risks and I have found a greater urge to travel. I have now seen the value in learning from other cultures and hope to do more of it in my future.