Central American visitors get a first-hand look at organic and sustainable ag in Wisconsin

Nineteen visitors from Central America toured Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wis. during August as part of a nine-day workshop on organic and sustainable agriculture.

Nineteen visitors from Central America, including students, growers, community organizers, extension agents and professors, recently completed a nine-day workshop on organic and sustainable agriculture production and marketing. The participants from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador saw vegetable production and marketing systems at six different farms and markets in southern Wisconsin.

Tour stops included Tipi Produce, Vemont Valley Community Farm, Wollershiem Winery, the Cedar Grove Cheese factory and several of the College’s ag research stations, reports CALS horticulture professor Jim Nienhuis, who led the workshop.”

The group also had a chance to examine one of two identical gardens that Nienhuis and Central American colleagues had planted here and in Costa Rica.

“We grew 28 vegetable types and cultivars both here in Madison and at the Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica (ITCR) en San Carlos – so students both in our CALS World Vegetables class (Hort 370) and students at ITCR could compare the effect of temperature and photoperiod on growth and development of vegetables,” Nienhuis says.

One highlight was a night trip to the Washburn Observatory to see stars and planets through the classic telescope. Another was a trip to see urban horticulture in Chicago and view a picture reflected off the ‘Gran Frijol’ in Millennium park.

The experience drew rave reviews from the participants.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” said Estimado Jaime, a participant from Honduras, in an email following the visit. “We feel that the workshop will be of great value to us as professionals and growers and also for our country, especially the different marketing models we were able to see used at the many farms we visited.”

“A great learning experience, impressive lessons and spectacular! Thank you, Jim for your friendship,” said Franciso Salmeron of the Universidad Nacional Agraria, Managua, Nicaragua.