Editors note: Pictures of the trip are available by contacting Ed Adcock.
IOWA FARMERS TO HOST COSTA RICANS THEY VISITED IN MARCH
Ames, Iowa -- A group of Iowa farmers and Iowa State University will host Costa Rican farmers, agricultural students and researchers this summer as part of science and education exchange.
Sandra Mass, Ellen Franzenburg, Christine Henning-Cooklin, and Fred Howell shopping at a farmers market in Hatillo, near the capital city of San José.
The host farmers toured Costa Rican farms and agricultural research facilities in March on a trip coordinated by Iowa State. ISU Extension and College of Agriculture faculty members Mark Gleason and Donald Lewis led the 10-day tour. Amy Wang and Felipe Arauz, professors at University of Costa Rica, an agricultural-science university in the country set up the itinerary.
The Iowa farmers were part of an unusual exchange program. Their costs were paid by a three-year grant from U.S. Department of Agricultures International Science and Education program. The goal of the visit was to learn first-hand how Costa Rican growers cope with environmental concerns, pests and diseases, and marketing challenges -- similar concerns that Iowa growers face.
The USDA-funded exchange will bring University of Costa Rica students, Costa Rican farmers and agricultural researchers for a 10-day tour of Iowa agriculture in July. Many of the Iowa veterans of the March tour have already volunteered to host tours or meals for the group.
Like most American tourists in Costa Rica, the Iowa group visited a rain forest, a volcano crater and a Pacific beach. The small country has coasts on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and an astonishing variety of environments from cool forests to hot, dry plains, Gleason said. Its agriculture is just as diverse, he added, yielding everything from coffee, pineapple and bananas to cabbage and broccoli.
The visitors returned to Iowa with a greater appreciation of Costa Rican farming methods and hard-working Costa Rican farmers. Biological control of crop diseases and insect pests is far more advanced than in the U.S., and is used routinely in such crops as sugar cane and coffee, said Lewis, an entomology professor.
The composting technology used on many Costa Rican farms is as advanced as anywhere in the world, Gleason added. For example, the berry pulp removed during coffee bean processing was traditionally dumped into Costa Ricas rivers, creating pollution problems. Environmental laws have changed the picture in recent years, and composted coffee wastes have become a sought-after source of nutrients and organic matter.
Composting caught the imagination of many of the Iowa tourists. Several mentioned that they intend to try new composting systems to deal with their crop wastes, and to use more composted organic matter on their farms, Gleason said. Others wanted to try out innovative Costa Rican marketing practices on agritourism farms here.