Jamaica is an island country smaller than Indiana and only has a few million people living there, but it is green almost everywhere you look and filled with some of the nicest people you have ever met. We stayed on the north east side of the island in the parish of Portland for most of our trip. During our time in Jamaica we learned that even though everything was so green, they were actually experiencing a drought. We also had a new experience with heat, because even though we are from Indiana where it gets hot and humid, going to the tropics brings a new meaning to those words.
While in Portland parish we learned a lot about the production side of agriculture. We ventured out to see coffee, banana, pineapple, and sugarcane plantations where we were shown the life stages of each plant. First we started with a seed or a root then followed that organism up until it was ready to harvest. This aspect of the trip was very neat because their crops are very different than ours, but have very similar processes. They explained to us soil types, water needs, and even pest management so we could get a greater idea as to what actually is needed and goes into their production.
Besides learning about tropical agriculture, we were enrolled and taking two education courses while in Jamaica; multiculturalism and teaching as a career. During our stay in Portland we had the opportunity to study at the College of Agriculture, Science, and Education, better known as CASE. CASE was gracious enough to open their doors so we could have a classroom for discussions, presentations, and to complete group projects. During one of our classroom days, four agriculture students from CASE gave us a tour of the CASE farms. Although CASE is much smaller than Purdue, they have a pretty impressive set up for their farms. First starting with their agronomy farm, they had many green and shade houses, a hydroponic system, test plots, and even a fruit production area. On the animal farm we learned that they raise swine, laying chickens, goats, sheep, dairy and beef cattle, rabbits, and broiler chickens. All of that is much like Purdue, except their students are required to work on the CASE farm for two years.
After our time at CASE and in the Portland parish was done we ventured across the mountains to stay in Kingston for the last four days of our trip. In Kingston we focused on the consumption side of agriculture as we toured several food processors and plants ranging from a coffee bean facility to an ackee canning factory.
Although getting to see their means of final product production was great, I think one of everyone’s favorite parts of the trip was getting to taste and enjoy some of the most exotic, yet most flavorful food in the world. Even though momma’s made from scratch cooking is great, Jamaicans sure know their way around the kitchen! We were able to taste jerk chicken, jerk pork, fried plantains, fresh mangos, pineapple, coconut, sugarcane, and even fish. I know these words do not do the taste buds justice, because how can you really describe something that tastes so delicious?
Being in Jamaica for eighteen days was a lot of time to learn and study, so every weekend we were able to put on our board shorts and sunscreen and tackle the inner tourist of all of us. Going to the tropics brought many new experiences for us, from bamboo rafting down the Rio Grande River, scuba diving in the ocean, swimming in the Blue Lagoon, or climbing up Dunn’s River Falls. All of those experiences were amazing and brought a lot of laughs and joy, the simplest task of seeing waves hit the sandy beach for the first time was had by many. Personally, I am so glad that I was able to see the joy on the faces of many of my classmates as they experienced putting their toes in the sand.
At the end of the day, when our trip finally came to a close and it was time once again to board that plane to head on back to good ole Indiana, no one wanted to leave, but everyone wanted to go home. We truly were explorers in every sense, with the food we ate, the topics we covered in class, or the places we travelled to tour or to have fun. You could call us experts on all things adventure, but the world better look out, because IAAE – Purdue members are just getting started searching, finding, and going abroad.