By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Justin Crowley, a graduate of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) high school, had the opportunity to gain some worldly agricultural experience when he traveled to Argentina for the National FFA Foundation’s International Leadership Seminar for State Officers.
Crowley, the son of Clem and Deb Crowley of Howard Lake, is the State FFA’s sentinel.
He started in FFA when he was in seventh-grade at HLWW, and was a chapter officer during high school.
The trip to Argentina took place Jan. 4-14, and there were about 70 participants from all over the US. Six were from Minnesota.
The many experiences Crowley had on the trip led him to a deeper respect and understanding that what happens in Argentina affects what happens in the US, even in Minnesota, he said.
While in Argentina, the group visited a crop farm, a sheep farm, and a farm that raised polo ponies, along with sheep and crops.
The crop farm was approximately 300 to 400 hectares (one hectare equals about 2-and-one-half acres).
It grew similar crops to the US: corn, soybeans, and wheat. Since Argentina’s growing season is a little longer, farmers can grow two crops each season, Crowley said.
Because Argentina’s soil is highly erosive, farmers practice no-till crop farming, said Crowley, who is a sophomore studying agricultural education at the University of Minnesota.
“When we were visiting, they had just taken out their wheat and they had planted soybeans over that, and corn was just getting over being chopped. It works well to pull out the wheat crop, then plant soybeans,” Crowley said.
The sheep farm was a breeding farm with 20 to 30 head of sheep used specifically for breeding.
The polo pony farm had 30 to 40 horses, four of which had been in international polo competitions.
Many of the polo ponies used in Europe are purchased in Argentina, Crowley said.
Another area the group visited was a port on the Paraná River. The river is large enough to accomodate ocean-going vessels, and many farmers bring their crops directly to the ship, Crowley said.
At the port was also a bio-fuel facility that crushed 20,000 tons of soybeans a day, Crowley said.
Crowley noted that the tax on agricultural exports in Argentina is 35 percent. “Basically, when farmers bring three truckloads of goods to market, one of those trucks is going to the government for taxes,” Crowley said.
The group also visited the US Embassy, where they heard from a group of Argentina’s youth leaders.
Along with learning about Argentine agriculture and the effects it has on the global market, the group was able to experience some of the country’s entertaining aspects.
They were treated to tango lessons, and saw a gaucho show. A gaucho is Argentina’s version of a cowboy, and the show is similar to the US Wild West shows, Crowley said.
One of the highlights of the trip for Crowley was visiting the Iguazu falls, which is the largest set of waterfalls in the world.
“We took a boat ride by the falls, and the water was pouring over us. It was a really cool experience,” Crowley said.
Another highlight for Crowley was interacting with the people from Argentina, especially the tour guide, who had been to the US many times and learned a lot about agriculture from those visits, Crowley said.