Monday, May 31, 2010

University of Agrarian Sciences

This evening we visited the private university - Universidad de la Empresa (University of Enterprise) - at the school of agrarian sciences. It is fascinating. Public universities in Uruguay are free to residents. Because of this, many students take 5-10 years to complete their university studies. At private schools, 5 years is the norm. This school teaches students a wide variety of enterprise focusing on agriculture. They have strategically formed a partnership with the University of North Carolina and exchange students, professors and researchers. There is alot of very strong plant and animal research occuring in Uruguay and they take a very entrepreneurial approach to agriculture. We had an opportunity to present on cranberries - production and marketing. They were very interesting in how to grow cranberries and what the demand for them is. They all enjoyed eating the Craisins we brought and drinking the Cran/Blueberry juice. Chuck is also happy as the weight of my bag has dramatically decreased by sharing all these samples!

Pictures of Parliment

Visit to the Legislative Palace

This afternoon we visited Parliment/Legislative Palace with Daniel and Claire. It is a building rich with history and pride for Uruguay. It was dedicated in August 1825 to celebrate their Independence. It was designed by an Italian, Cayetano Moretti and built out of Uruguayan granite and marble. It is considered the most important building in Uruguay. When you are inside, you would think that you were in Italy. All of the work is hand done and all of the stone moved by horse. They seat a House Representatives of 99 which represent the 19 deparments (states) and 30 Senators. We had the honor to meet with Senator Saravia. He is a prominent Senator from a family with a long political history. He is head of the Commission of Defense and Agriculture. Agriculture represents 70% of labor involvement. The celebrate a Labor Day on May 1.

Supermercado in Montevideo

The supermarkets are large here. It seems to be the place where most working/business people go for lunch and for good reason. They have wonderful fresh items - pastas, meats,....that you could get to go. The have special fresh kiosks set up in the market midday for these items. The pasteries are what is commonly served around 5-7pm with tea. All of their juices are refridgerated and they have limited shelf stable drink items other than sodas and carbonated fruit drinks. There is a section of powdered mixes next to the juices. The deli serves a variety of hung meats - mainly salamis, hams, etc. Of course, there is a very large butchery.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

some more photos in Punta del Este

Punta del Este

There was a fashion show at our hotel. The clothes were beautiful...don't worry....we found the store today before we left Punta del Este :)

BBQ Uruguayan Style

This is at Las Brisas restaurant. Anything you like...they can grill - beef, pork, rabbit, blood sausage, squid, ....

Back from Punta del Este

Chuck and I traveled to Punta del Este Friday night. It is about 2 hours by bus. In the season, it is consider the St. Tropez of South America. We could see why. It is a peninsula with beautiful beaches. It rained most of the day Saturday so we enjoyed a local BBQ restaurant. This is not the BBQ of home. This is serious. I missed my initial photo oppt. of the grilled covered in every meat imaginable....beef, pork, rabbit, chicken, etc....It was wonderful. We strolled the local shopping center to see that everyone is very interested in Columbia Sportswear, Reebok and everything boot related - low boots, high boots, cowboy boots, ... We stayed Saturday evening at the Conrad hotel which is a conference center and casino overlooking the water. This is a hot spot for visitors. We enjoyed the evening and had breakfast at the hotel. When the rain stopped this morning, we had a chance to walk around Punta del Este. It is a very beautiful with many great restaurants, shops and beaches. I will add pictures later. The taxi driver said that during the summer you cannot even drive since there are so many people. We are back in Montevideo now and have a meeting at Parliment tomorrow.

Friday, May 28, 2010


This afternoon we visited with the IICA - Pan American Institute of Cooperation for Agriculture. The IICA is truly an amazing organzation that foster collaboration with multiple nations (34 including the US) to promote agriculture in the Americas. They are working on a tremendous number of exciting and important programs with defining sustainability, innovation, technology, plant safety and security and trade policy. They are looking to better the future, perception and awarenss for agriculture. The office in Uruguay offers training and collaboration for farmers. They see tremendous development potential in Uruguay. Their concerns focus around bringing new farmers into agriculture as their farming population is aging and the next generation does not stay in the rural areas because of a shortage of infastructure and social aspects. We received very important prospectives from the 4 leaders we met with at IICA (all of whom have moved to Uruguay from Brazil or Argentina (one via Washington DC as the Agricultural Attache for 15 years). This is an organization that we should all learn more about!

Campos Azules

After visiting the market, we went to Campos Azules...the blueberry farm. Blueberries have only been growing in Uruguay for less than 10 years. They brought them here from the States. The soil on this farm has much thick clay (thicker than our bog at home). They have a pH of approx. 5.5.

Busy day...

Pictures of the market, the green fruit are a local squash (typically cooked stuffed with meat), citrus, Chuck with Daniel and Ernesto and the market overall. Amazing

We started off this morning with a visit to Mercado Modelo (Grower's Market). This is the market where growers broker their produce. We met with the market manager, Ernest Babuglia. It is a tremendous hub of activity. The growers begin arriving at 3am and stay until noon. This is where the produce used in Uruguay is handled.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chivito Classico....

Not typically in our diet and Chuck's doctor is sending more cholesterol medication as we speak but delicious!!!!

1st day of meetings....

We had our first meetings today which were excellent. We met with Gonzalo from UPEFRUY. Gonzalo spoke with us about the opportunities Uruguay has with exporting. As a country with a very small population (3.2 million), exporting is very important for economic success. They anticipate increased production over the next several years as young plantings mature. During this time, they will look for new markets, explore other options for fruit utilization, try to find a solution for a shortage of workers and continue to search for investment. Our next meeting was with the Rural Association of Uruguay and Gonzalo Arroyo as well as our wonderful translator Marie Claire. The ARU is the oldest agricultural association founded in 1871 to progress the rights of the farmers and their interests through its society members (for example blueberry growers, breeders, etc). Their largest interests are in beef production. As we have discovered, it is all about meat here! ARU helps farmers through government representation. Gonzalo helped us also understand that farmers here are very independent and do NOT borrow monies from banks. They look to external investors or use their land for rental. He has seen the price of land multiply 10x's in the last decade as external investors have come to rent lands for soy bean production. Many Argentianian farmers rent land in Uruguay as they have a very stable and liquid economy.

We spent a wonderful afternoon with our translator Marie Claire. She is a bright young woman studying veterinary medicine and preparing for her own fellowship next Wednesday to University of North Carolina. Her family raises horses and sheep further North where they go on the weekends. During the week, her uncle and grandmother watch their farm. I was very excited to talk with her about the sheep since my days long ago raising sheep.

Marie Claire, Chuck and I set out to the city center, toured a museum recommended by her father and learned a bit more about local Uruguayan culture. The city was once surrounded by a stone wall to protect it. The stone doorway still remains. (photographs later) We toured the principal theater and main square with a large statue in honor of Jose Artigas who was a champion for freedom and independence of Uruguay. We settled into a cafe for afternoon tea and a locally made sweet which Marie Claire offered to share her grandmother's recipe for! You all know I love to bake ....but don't know if I can pull this off.

Tonight we will head out in search of Chivitos. A chivito is a sandwich style national dish in Uruguay consisting of sliced filet, mayo, olives, tomatos, maybe bacon, fried eggs, peppers, beets. Once Marie Claire explained what these were to Chuck....I knew this would be dinner.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This evening we had cafe with our local program coordinator and Eisenhower Fellow, Daniel. He is an amazing and talented man who helped pioneer the blueberry industry here. Blueberry commercialization is only a decade old to Uruguay but has experienced great success but with challenges. They have a temperate climate, good soils, water resources and are Global GAP certified. They are continuing to look for better exportation methods, scheduling, fruit utilization, capital investments/investors and new markets. Additionally, Daniel and others are looking to expand the agricultural footprint with beef production and other potential crop diversification. I look forward to continuing to gain a better understanding.

We walked to a local and very poplular restaurant for dinner this evening. We did our small part to support local agriculture by drinking a beautifully crafted Uruguayan Cabernet.......there has to be some humor :) And, since I hear there will be no frost for the cranberries in MA tonight. It is off to bed!
Buenas tardes....
We arrived in Montevideo this afternoon. it is the fall here and about 62 degree F and a bit overcast today. The flights were great. Our biggest question was at the aiport in Uruguay with the Food and Agriculture people who wanted to inspect my large bag full of dried cranberries, juices, etc....What are they??? All I could think was, I made my husband load this huge oversized bag around and they are going to make me leave it all. After a few moments of poor communication on my part (we really are disadvantaged in only knowing one language well), we all laughed and made it safely to our driver. Tonight Chuck and I will meet with our program coordinator. Tomorrow we will be meeting with UPEFRUY (Union of Producers and Exporters of Fruits of Uruguay) and the Rural Association of Uruguay.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

At the airport

We are at the airport waiting for our boarding! We will have three flights to get to Uruguay - Miama - Buenos Aires - Montevideo. I can't believe how fast the time went to this date and we are anxious to get there. Best wishes

Monday, May 24, 2010

We will be arriving in Montevideo on Wednesday, May 26th.
Please read a bit more about Uruguay. I know many of us are not familiar with Uruguay but it has much to offer.

Getting Ready

I can't believe I will be leaving tomorrow to start my adventure! I am excited and nervous. I have been working with the amazing people at the Eisenhower Fellowship and my local program coordinators in Uruguay and Brazil to arrange a program that is fascinating. During my travels, I will have the opportunity to meet with Government Agencies, NGOs, private and public organizations, research companies, universities and producers. I will be sharing information about the cranberry industry which will be especially interesting as these areas are not familiar with the North American cranberry.

I could not have it made it this far without all the support and help of my husband Chuck, parents, the girls, grandparents, friends, the wonderful team at Ocean Spray, (Bailey, Ziggy and Connor), everyone that is help running our businesses while we are away and so many others. I will miss you all! Please be patient with me with this blog as it is my first try at it. I will work to keep the site updated with our travels and some interesting information! Off to packing!!!