LEADMD Visits Chile: Vivar. Reírse. Cultivar.
By: Holly Porter, marketing specialist
MidAtlantic Farm Credit employees, Holly Porter and Chris Robinson graduated from the LEADMD program on March 16, 2013 after a 2 year experience which included leadership seminars, farm tours and an international agriculture trip to Chile. Below, Holly Porter writes about their experience in Chile:
Chile is a fascinating country that is living for one thing – innovación (innovation). To understand present day Chile, you need to understand some of its history. The country was under military dictatorship until 23 years ago. The people were oppressed, with little human rights, but the military dictatorship did establish some positive free market economics within the country.
After regaining democracy in the 1990’s, the country has expanded on that economic structure. With a population of only 17 million (New York City alone has 8 million), the country looks beyond its borders for growth. International exports is key to the country, especially agriculture (its number two export).
Since so many Chilean’s have lived through the tough times, they are all so positive and excited about the future of the country. From the government representatives that we met, to the farmers, to our own tour guide, everyone is eager to help make their country competitive within South America and the world. Chile may be about 10-15 years behind the US in economic development, but it won’t take them that long to catch up!
It’s that positive attitude of the Chilean people who made it so easy to laugh and love the country. Whether it was trying to order dinner in broken Spanish, two people squeezing into rooms with two beds and not much more space or enjoying a couple of bottles of Chilean wine, there were lots of opportunities to laugh!
We laughed with the Nieto family – a farm family of six that grew vegetables that were marketed domestically. The family hosted our group with a wonderful (and hearty) lunch, all while they were in the middle of preparing for the daughters on-farm wedding just one week later. We asked just as many wedding tradition questions as we did ag-related ones!
We also had some of our best laughs at a restaurant called Buenos Muchachos. There our class was treated to Chilean barbecue (huge plates piled high with steak, pork, chicken, sausage and potatoes) and some native dance moves. There was even audience participation…whether you wanted to or not (See photo).
In between the dancing and laughing, we had some amazing opportunities to visit the farms of the country. Believe it or not, farmers in Chile have some of the same issues as farmers in the US. They worry about labor (the mining industry is the largest industry in the country and pays very well), water needs and irrigation
and building a market for their products. The country offers A LOT of money, programs and grants (part of the country’s push for entrepreneurship), but just like the US, many of them require a lot of paperwork!
While in Chile, we visited a vineyard, small vegetable farm, a fruit tree nursery (who knew there were so many stone fruits), peach orchard, llama and alpaca breeding operation, hazelnut operation, grain processor converting rapeseed to canola oil and a blueberry farm. We even had lunch at a small tomato farm that was venturing into agritourism! It was amazing to see so many similarities and differences between the American and Chilean operations.
But one thing remained the same – the people. The farmers are all proud of the work they do and even more proud to share it with others. One of my fellow classmates said it well – people all really want the same things, no matter where you are in the world – a good living, happiness and health. You can live, laugh and farm anywhere!
Have you ever visited another country and experienced their culture, language or agriculture? Comment below and tell us about your visit!