Sleepy Eye FFA advisor, Mary Hoffmann, and member, Brandon Roiger, attended the proficiency and star travel seminar in Costa Rica from June 10-18 organized by the National FFA Organization.

Sleepy Eye FFA advisor, Mary Hoffmann, and member, Brandon Roiger, attended the proficiency and star travel seminar in Costa Rica from June 10-18 organized by the National FFA Organization. While on the trip, Hoffmann and Roiger had an opportunity to visit several farms and learn about production agriculture while also touring popular destinations with 63 other participants.

Both said they learned a lot while on the trip. Roiger was very eager to share what he learned right when he got home. He even made a newsletter to share on social media with his family and friends about what he saw while visiting the country.

“There were a lot of obvious differences between agriculture in Costa Rica and the United States, but there were also a few similarities,” Roiger said. “One of the things that remained the same in both countries is that farmers care. Wherever we went, you could tell the workers were passionate about what they were doing.”

Some of the farms the duo visited included a coffee plantation, banana plantation, pineapple farm, a dairy farm with strawberry fields and a beef cattle operation.

Roiger’s favorite tour was the coffee plantation. He said it was explained really well from production to processing to exporting the coffee.

“One thing I thought was really interesting was that they called the coffee bean a cherry,” Roiger said. “Technically, coffee is a fruit. I learned little things like that I wouldn’t normally think about since it isn’t common in the United States.”

Hoffmann liked the banana plantation. She said the guide gave a lot of really good information about the production, and he was fun to listen to.

The guide at the banana plantation said it takes 18 days for a banana to get from the farm in Costa Rica to a person’s kitchen table in the United States after it is harvested. However, it takes up to nine months for a banana plant to produce one bunch of bananas. There were nearly 700 bananas per acre.

Hoffmann said she learned a lot about the production process of all the different farms they visited. “I cannot wait to share all I have learned with my students,” she said.

Hoffmann and Roiger enjoyed meeting different FFA members on the trip. Other participants were from all over the United States including Washington, California, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Four other Minnesota students were on the trip.

Roiger won the Costa Rica trip after becoming a national finalist in the agricultural education proficiency area. One student is selected from each proficiency area to attend the international seminar sponsored by FFA supporters.

Roiger previously traveled to South Africa on a trip coordinated by the National FFA Organization. He said there was a lot more to cover during that trip since it was ten days instead of a week. They visited farms, agribusinesses, tourist areas and were even able to see a youth program in an impoverished neighborhood during that trip.

Roiger said he is interested in becoming a high school agriculture teacher someday, so he hopes to use what he has learned on these international experiences in the classroom to show a global perspective on agriculture. He will be a junior this fall at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities majoring in agricultural education and is a 2013 graduate from Sleepy Eye Public High School.

Hoffmann wouldn’t hesitate recommending the trip to an FFA member or advisor if they have the opportunity. An agriculture teacher at Sleepy Eye Public High School, she knows she will use what she learned to help her students learn more about international agriculture.

“It is a firsthand agricultural experience in another country, and the networking with other students, advisors and chaperones was fabulous,” Hoffmann said.