Perspectives Online

Uruguay collaborators renew College acquaintances

In Chatham County are (from left) John Sabella, visiting scientist Harry Archimede, Paul Mueller, Claudio Williman, Fleming Pfann of Celebrity Dairy, Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, Alda Rodriguez dos Santos, Natalia Rodriguez and Patricia Holoman.
Photo courtesy Michelle Schroeder-Moreno

Collaborators from two partner institutions in Uruguay visited N.C. State University in September to renew acquaintances in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and discuss opportunities for developing joint education courses.

In 2007, 23 faculty members, students and Cooperative Extension professionals from the College visited Uruguay for a sustainable agriculture study tour. With support from a U.S. Department of Agriculture International Science and Education grant, the group partnered with the Universidad de la Empressa (UDE) in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, and BIO Uruguay International, a research and extension program for sustainable agriculture in Tacuarembó.

Visitors to N.C. State from Uruguay included agricultural engineer Claudio Williman, dean of the College of Agriculture at UDE, and Dr. Alda Rodriguez, director of BIO Uruguay, and her daughter, Natalia. Hosting the group, along with CALS International Programs, was former CALS faculty member Dr. John Sabella, a co-founder of BIO Uruguay and now on the faculty of the National Agricultural University of Honduras (UNA).

“USDA’s ISE competitive grants program represents a wonderful opportunity to support research, extension, and teaching activities that will enhance the capabilities of American colleges and universities to learn from and collaborate with international instutions and colleagues,” said Dr. Paul Mueller, CALS interim assistant dean for international programs.

After the N.C. State group visited Uruguay in 2007, three Uruguayan students came to N.C. State as summer interns in 2008. And there has been talk of sending N.C. State students for internships in Uruguay. During the September visit, there was serious discussion about setting up an online course that would involve students from N.C. State and Uruguay, as well as Honduras, from Sabella’s institution, UNA.

During their visit, Williman and Rodriguez were able to experience North Carolina agriculture. They attended the 15th Annual Animal Agriculture Field Day in Franklin County, where youth had the opportunity to learn about poultry and livestock production. The two, along with Sabella, were interviewed by several local news organizations.

In addition to the field day, the group visited the farm of Martha Mobley, Franklin County agricultural Extension agent, who raises and sells grass-fed beef and meat goats with her husband, Steve. Mobley was a member of the group that visited Uruguay in 2007.

The group also visited the sustainable agriculture program at Central Carolina Community College in Chatham County, where they learned about how the on-site student farm is used to teach students across a variety of curricula. Williman was interested because the UDE agriculture school has just developed a new agronomy curriculum, and he wants it to be more interactive. In the afternoon, the group visited Celebrity Dairy in Chatham County, with Debbie Roos, organic agricultural Extension agent. Rodriquez was interested in how the farm had incorporated agritourism — dinners and overnight guests — into its cheese-making operation. Toward the end of the week, the group visited new units at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro.

In September, discussion focused on an online agroecology course already developed by Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno. The group discussed how the course could be expanded by incorporating case studies of farming operations developed by each of the three institutions. Each university group could review the others’ case studies, provided in both English and Spanish, to learn about sustainable practices in international agriculture. When the group visited Uruguay in 2007, three students making the trip for course credit wrote case studies of the operations they visited. The case studies were shared with Williman and Rodriquez during their visit.

Mueller said, “We are excited about the possibility of collaborating with our Uruguayan colleagues in developing an online agroecology course that will address, in both English and Spanish, some of the topics of global importance to the development of sustainable agricultural systems.”

—Natalie Hampton