For several years, Rodale Institute and Organización Internacional Agropecuaria (OIA), a certifying agency for organic agriculture in Argentina, have been organizing a travel program between the U.S. and Argentina. The goal of the program is to exchange innovative research and farming strategies and visit a number farms to experience firsthand a specific agricultural system. Participants from both countries are given the opportunity to share farming experiences and discuss topics of interest among a diversity of farmers, researchers, agricultural engineers, and entrepreneurs.
This year, Rodale Institute hosted a group of thirteen Argentinian delegates for one week. The delegation was led by Pedro Landa, Director of OIA and a close friend and supporter of the Institute. The trip began at Rodale Institute where Institute staff presented on numerous agricultural topics and production systems. The delegation was impressed with the diversity of activities that the Institute had to offer and was particularly interested in the Agriculture Support Communities program, compost operation and the Farming Systems Trial.
After visiting the Institute, the group traveled to Penn State University’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center near State College, PA to learn about the Cover Crop Cocktails project and Reduced Tillage Organic Systems Experiment. Presentations were delivered by a number of faculty, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students. The delegation was also able to watch a demonstration using a roller crimper.
The delegation then traveled to Tyrone, PA to visit Thistle Creek Farm to see a beef cattle operation practicing intensive grazing. The group was stunned to see that by placing large herds of cattle in a relatively small pasture will ultimately force the cows to eat or trample all parts of the pasture. The herd is frequently moved from one pasture to another so as not to overgraze and compromise the health of the soil. Within three weeks during the height of the growing season the pasture can regrown and will be ready for grazing again. Just as amazing were the three, highly trained dogs that were used to move the cattle from pasture to pasture.
The group then visited Lakeview Organic Grain in Penn Yan, NY followed by two farm tours at Martens and Webster farms. Topics for discussion focused on soil health and the value in “reading” your soils. Participants also discussed the importance of strategic crop rotation. Once back in Pennsylvania, the delegation participated in organic dairy farm tours at Spring Creek Farms in Wernersville and Danda Farms in Manheim. The farms varied with one being all grass feed while the other supplemented pasture with grain.
Finally, the group finished the week off with a few more activities and presentations at Rodale Institute. The participants watched as Institute staff weighed pigs for a research project followed by a walk through the hog pastures. After a brief walk through the vegetable production fields the group was given a presentation on compost science and utilization.
A group of Americans will be traveling to Argentina this fall to embark on a similar travel program. There is much information to share between the two countries and the future and success of organic agriculture depends on building relationships and sharing farmer experiences!