Ohio agriculture students: No farms, no food
Ohio and Dominica are like white chalk and green cheese.
In February, the US state of Ohio is usually a beautiful snowy white; in February Dominica, the Caribbean island, sparkling clean after daily showers, is a lively verdant paradise. That's where the differences begin.
"One of the first comments I heard when we left the airport to come to Roseau was: it's green. Because we were coming from ice and snow and suddenly it's green," said Dr. Tom Stilwell, the leader of a group of students from Wilmington College, Ohio who ended a one-week educational tour of Dominican farms last week.
Wilmington College is in Wilmington, Ohio, about an hour's drive from Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus. It is a student-centred, Quaker college that integrates a liberal arts education with teaching career preparation skills.
The college offers an undergraduate major in agriculture that prepares its students for work or graduate school in agricultural business, agronomy, animal science, production, equine studies and vocational agriculture teaching licensure. Minors in agriculture can also be pursued by students majoring in other fields.
"It's a very small college," said Dr. Stilwell, of about 1000 and 25 percent are agricultural students.
Apart from the snow and the ice of Ohio and the green, green, green of Dominica, there are other differences and contrasts: large thousand-acre farms against small subsistence plots; harvesters versus cutlasses and hoes; the billion dollar business as opposed to farming- for- survival occupations. And, most significantly, the large variety of crops here surprised the Ohioans, a little.
"The agriculture (in Ohio) is primarily crop although there are some large livestock operations such as swine," said Dr. Stilwell. "It's a very limited number of crops, not like you have here. You have a tremendous number of different crops."
"It's very diverse, multiple crops, each farm may have up to ten crops," said one of six students who spoke to the Sun at the Flamingo Hotel in mid-town Roseau. "There are many more crops on the island than I thought."
Derrick Zamore, a retired agricultural officer, who organized the tour, guided the Ohio students to Witnell Louis's multiple-crop farm high on the mountain at Syndicate; Carlton Shillingford's relatively small farm deep in the sheltered valley of Layou Park; Avan Gabriel's mini-farm in Milton; they also saw bay oil production in Good Hope, cassava farine baking in the Kalinago Territory and the manufacture of virgin coconut oil in Woodford Hill, where "small is beautiful" is an understatement.
"I was surprised at how small they (the cottage industries) are," said another student.
But there's one major similarity that the Ohio agricultural students did not fail to notice- farmers here, as they are in Ohio are passionate about what they do.
"One of the first farmers we saw told us that 'agriculture is my life' which is how a lot of farmers in the US feel as well," said another student.
The students added that to draw attention to the absolute importance of farming, Ohioans have created bumper stickers that read: "Did you eat today? Thank the farmers" and "No farms, no food" and "I farm, you eat."
Apart from visiting farms, the Ohio students were submerged by Dominica's carnival jump-up, flung into the Creole language, splashed by the warm deep-blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and wowed by sight-warming tourist sites like the Fresh Water Lake at Laudat and the Waitukubuli National Trail.
"Derrick has given us a very complete tour for agriculture," said Dr. Stilwell. "It is amazing."
Asked what word to the wise he'd leave with Dominican agriculture planners, Dr. Stilwell said: "Find the markets, that's the key. If there's a market the farmers can raise anything."