Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Encounter, Argentina
By Hannah Lauffenburger
While attending Oklahoma State University I was selected to be a member of the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Encounter, which is a group of twelve seniors who experience agriculture first-hand in Oklahoma, as well as on a national level. This year we visited agricultural industries in the four corners of Oklahoma, learned how policy decisions at the state capitol and Washington D.C. effects agriculture, volunteered our time at the Oklahoma Youth Expo, and traveled abroad to Argentina for eight days to learn about agriculture internationally. Overall, this experience has been an incredible opportunity.
While in Argentina, we attended classes at the universities, visited farms and ranches, historical sights, agribusinesses, attended the world’s largest open livestock show, and ate a lot of great food!
Upon arriving to Argentina, we were immediately introduced to the culture, food and language of the country as we toured older parts of the city of Buenos Aires. We ate empanadas, drank native wine and walked the streets visiting little shops. Spanish is the primary language spoke there, so overcoming the language barrier was the most challenging aspect of the trip. I could not go into a shop or restaurant without my translator on my phone or otherwise I would have not been able to communicate.
A large part of Argentine culture is the tango dance. We saw several tango performances during lunch and dinner, as well as it was performed on the streets in the city squares. The dancers were all incredibly talented and passionate about their acts. We visited several historical sites such as the largest bookstore in the world, El Ateneo, many beautiful Cathedrals, and the cemetery of Eva Peron.
The food was one of my favorite parts, as we always ate well, whether that was a large steak at almost every meal or delicious desserts. We were able to do a lot of shopping at markets or little shops on the streets where we found native jewelry and leather-work.
A couple of the days we were fortunate enough to attend classes at the University of Buenos Aires, where we met with an agronomy professor and the head of international affairs. We learned the importance of agricultural production within Argentina’s economy and how the pampas, known as the flat land region, is responsible for most of the country’s grain production. The four major crops produced are soybeans, maize, wheat and sunflower.
The farmers practice no irrigation and no-tillage management on their fields and rely heavily on their export markets especially for soybeans, as they are the third largest soybean producer after the United States and Brazil. It was neat to hear how passionate the professors and educators were about Argentina’s agriculture.
We were fortunate enough to tour the biology research labs where we met with graduate students, who showed us the different trials and experiments they were working on. We also traveled to Pergamino, Argentina to visit the National Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA) which is Argentina’s federal extension agency, where we spoke about relationships between the government and farmers. The presentations were given in Spanish, so our tour guide did his best to translate back to us.
We visited several farms and ranches where we learned the importance of the gaucho, also known as a cowboy, who were the skilled horsemen and national symbol. We met with cow-calf producers and learned how they raise and sell their cattle. One of the ranchers we visited with selected their bulls based on birthweight and were very precise in their breeding decisions. For the most part, the cattle production in Argentina was similar to the U.S. production practices.
Towards the end of the trip we visited the stockyards, where cattle were sold within their sorted pen. The auctioneer and buyers walk on the catwalk above moving from pen to pen during the sale. Multiple auctions go on at the stockyards throughout the day as they move 5,000 head of cattle in and out each day. After the stockyards, we headed to La Rural which is the largest open livestock show in the world. We watched Hereford, Angus and Braham cattle show, as well as equestrian show.
Traveling to Argentina was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Not only did I learn a lot about the country and international agriculture, but I was able to enjoy it with a great group of people through Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Youth Expo. Go Pokes!