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In This Corner…

May 15, 2014

When heavyweight champ Joe Frazier stepped into the ring in Kingston, Jamaica on Jan. 22, 1973 the smart money was on him to beat George Foreman.

Who dared bet against the man who 10 months earlier dealt Mohammad Ali his first professional boxing defeat? And although Frazier beat Ali by unanimous decision, a win was a win. He’d stood toe-to-toe with the legend for 15 rounds and emerged victorious, even if no knockout punch had been delivered. Joe Frazier was now the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

So it was no wonder the boxing world and those who were watching the fight that night on a new cable station called HBO were stunned when Foreman’s uppercut dropped Frazier to the canvas in the early seconds of the first round.

The scene was immortalized by ringside announcer Howard Cosell, who screamed out, “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” as the champ hit the mat.

I’ve been a boxing fan for as long as I can remember. I was 12 in January of 1973 and didn’t see the Frazier-Foreman fight, but have watched the scene replayed for years on various TV programs about heavyweight boxing’s golden decade of the 1970s.

And it was “Down goes Frazier!” that came to mind last week the minute Dr. Gerald Miletello told me I had leukemia. Then the question immediately became, “Who would be Frazier; me or this new cancer?

For many with a cancer diagnosis, the disease seems overwhelmingly powerful. Unbeatable even. We all know someone who lost his or her battle with cancer. There was a time when cancer was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the medical world. It never lost.

Not today.

I’ll admit I was dazed by that first blow delivered by Dr. Miletello with the AML diagnosis. Since it had nothing to do with my previous cancer there was an air of confusion surrounding the whole thing. Was AML just biding its time, waiting to strike? It seemed so.

Two cancer diagnoses in two years. What were the odds? Apparently astronomical. Only 15,000 people will be diagnosed with AML this year, with 8,000 being 65 or older and about 1,000 children and teens. That means only 6,000 people in the remaining age group, among 315 million Americans, would have to hear their doctor tell them they have leukemia. Lottery ticket anyone?

After a few days the reality of this second diagnosis set in. The range of emotions ran from stunned disbelief to quiet anger. But I’d beaten esophageal cancer.  Nothing could change my mind about that.  And again I recalled the Frazier-Foreman bout. Although Foreman had been strong in his previous matches, he was going up against the man who’d beaten Mohammad Ali. Many wrote off the future grill master promoter before the first bell ever sounded.

In his later years Foreman would say his defeat of Frazier would define him as a boxer and not his loss to Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle,” as the former Cassius Clay reclaimed the heavyweight title.

So like Foreman I now wait for my opening bell to sound. The crowd is anxious. My emotions are high. My heart is racing. The opponent in the other corner is formidable. He stares me down. I know I’ve got just one shot at hearing “Down goes cancer! Down goes cancer! Down goes cancer!”

Let round 2 begin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZEIMQ42-oU

 

 

Cancer, Round 2

May 14, 2014

Family, friends and my Farm Bureau family,

For the second time in less than two years I again find myself facing a cancer diagnosis.

On May 12 I was diagnosed with AML, acute myeloid leukemia.  Interestingly it was not related to the esophageal cancer.  This AML cancer, according to my oncologist Dr. Gerald Miletello, was simply waiting in the wings.  My last blood test showed a massive drop in white blood cell count, which was confirmed by a bone marrow test.  After 18 months of perfect scans and blood tests, AML decided to manifest itself exclusive of my previous cancer.  I guess the good news is that had I not been under a physician’s care for the esophageal cancer I might have waited until it was too late.

Currently, my white blood cell count is 1,100.  Not good, even for a former chemo patient.  The bone marrow test confirmed that I have 20 percent pre-leukemic cells currently floating around in my system.  Dr. Miletello, while not 100 percent certain, expects that percentage to increase sooner rather than later.  Once the level of pre-leukemic cells reaches 30 percent I will be admitted to the Baton Rouge General on Pennington for either 30 or 60 days of chemotherapy.  This will be an around the clock procedure requiring a minimum hospital stay of 30 days.

Essentially, the first seven days will be spent knocking my white cell count (resistance) to zero.  The next two weeks will be spent bringing me and my immune system back to life, so to speak. The last seven days will be a repeat of week one, again, bringing my white cell count to zero.  At day 30 they’ll know whether the cancer has gone into remission.  (Don’t ask me how, they just know.) If the cancer hasn’t gone into remission, the 30-day process starts all over again immediately.  The good news is that about 60 percent of patients respond in the first 30 days, while about 88-90 percent of patients see remission after 60 days.

I’m confident I’ll be finished after 30 days for several reasons.  First, I’m healthy (other than the cancer).  I have no other health conditions such as heart, lung or other organ issues.  This means the recharged white cells won’t have to “waste energy” fighting off something else.  By “resetting” the marrow to start producing healthy white blood cells, remission is a very real possibility the first time around.

If neither of these sessions produces remission the next step is a bone marrow transplant.  Siblings, on average, are only a 30- to 35-percent match.  However, my sister Tammy is standing by.  Next they’ll look to my children, Chase and Taylor.  My mother is not an option due to her age.  But unlike organ transplants, where only a few hundred organs might be available at any given time, the U.S. bone marrow registry currently contains 10.5 million registrants.  The odds are in my favor that a match will be found quickly.

The best thing about this is that nurse Renee is standing by.  There’s no better caregiver on the planet.  She’ll be by my side every step of the way.  I don’t know what I ever did to deserve her, but I’m so blessed to have her in my life.

In an effort to monitor the white cell count I will have a blood test every Monday until the level reaches 30 percent.  Yesterday I got my first piece of good news.  Since last week the count has remained at 20 percent.  And the white count could remain at 20 percent for months, even years, according to Dr. Miletello.  A second such miracle would be nice, it just depends on what my body decides to do with this disease.

I tell all of you this because you are my closest (got it right this time, Steve Miley!) friends and family members.  Until I reach the magic number I’ll be at the office, doing the usual things. Hopefully I can make convention in June and get that behind me before I have to send the post office a change of address card reading “Baton Rouge General Medical Center.”

Due to my reduced immune condition, I won’t likely shake your hand or hug you if I see you.  I know you’ll all understand and I promise to make up those lost hugs and handshakes when all this is behind me.

If and when the magic number is reached, Neil Melancon will the con, as they say.  He’s my No. 1 and I know he’ll run the PR department in the same professional manner we’ve always prided ourselves in.  I know he sent out an email yesterday on my behalf about protocols regarding visitors, hand sanitizer and the like.  I’ve already been in touch with some of you.  I know I may have missed some friends and acquaintances on this email list.  Please forward this to those who might want to know what’s going on with me and apologize on my behalf

Again, to all of you, thanks so much for your thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement.  My Farm Bureau family has stood by me though every one of life’s challenges.  It’s what we do here at the Bureau.  The love of the Farm Bureau family is a powerful thing and I know that with your prayers and words of support I’ll beat this cancer again.

Besides, how would it look if the poster boy for cancer survival just upped and died?  Someone would have some serious explaining to do.

 

Sincerely,

Mike

Central America: An Epilog

February 6, 2014

I trust everyone made it safely home, got some well-deserved rest and is readjusting to being back in the greatest country on earth.

There’s nothing like seeing the world for what it truly is, but there’s also nothing like sleeping in one’s own bed safe in the knowledge that, essentially, we have it made.

Having traveled on AgLeadership international tours for the last 10 years I can honestly say this was one of the best.  I know we ran hard and got little sleep, but that’s really the whole idea behind the program: to craft leaders who will always go the extra mile to promote farming and ranching, to never take a day off when it comes to letting the world know about the importance of agriculture.  Commitment, as they say, never takes a holiday.

And when it comes to leaders you’ll not find a better one than Dr. Bobby Soileau.  There’s not much more I can write or say about the man who holds the reigns to the AgLeadership program.  Bobby is a man of many talents; a writer, reporter, news videographer, producer, organizer and most importantly, a teacher.

Like his father before him, Bobby understands the role of education, no matter the venue.  AgLeadership is about education; educating those who will take their newfound knowledge to the masses.  As the number of farmers and ranchers continues to decline there’s never been a more important time to remind all Americans, and the world for that matter, that agriculture matters.  Thanks brother.

Thanks also to Cheryl Duplechain for keeping us organized along the way.  Managing the flights, the tours and the hotels wasn’t easy.  On trips like these even the smallest missteps are multiplied ten-fold.  Cheryl kept us on time and on track.

A big shout out to Dr. Phil Elzer.  His knowledge of agriculture and his penchant for timely, engaging discussion was a value-added bonus to this trip.  His comic relief was also a welcomed respite from the long hours on the bus.  And thanks again Phil for helping me stay in the game.

For the last 28 years I’ve had the privilege of calling Jim Monroe not only my boss, but also one of my closest friends.  I can’t tell you how much his friendship has meant to me, both professionally and personally.  Jim and I have traveled the world, shooting photos, producing programs and documenting Louisiana agriculture’s reach across the globe.  When you need the shot, Jim’s got it.  When you need a friend, Jim’s there.  And for the last 40 years he’s been one of the most outspoken advocates for Louisiana agriculture.  Thanks boss.

And a big thank-you to Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson. Like Jim, Ronnie has been a true friend and the man I have proudly served for the last 25 years.  Ronnie and the Farm Bureau wholeheartedly support the LSU AgLeadership program and will continue to do so.  Thanks for letting me be a part of AgLeadership and continuing to support the program through my travels with it.

Finally, thanks to all of you for allowing me and Jim to travel with you and to share in your experiences.  It was great getting to know each of you and I know I speak for Jim when I say that with leaders like you, the future of Louisiana agriculture is in good hands.

Congratulations on completing Class 13 of the LSU AgLeadership Development Program and I look forward to seeing you all at graduation Feb. 22.

Until next time…

La Pura Vida Comes To An End

February 2, 2014

The last voyage of the famed explorer Christopher Columbus found the worldly Italian landing in Costa Rica. 

The man probably thought about retiring here.  Who wouldn’t want to spend his golden years in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  It isn’t called the rich coast for nothing.

As Class 13 packs away the last of its souvenirs and makes ready to head home, I’m certain each would say Costa Rica was their favorite stop along the three-country tour.  Few can say they’ve dined on fine Central American cuisine while gazing upon an active volcano, steam slowly puffing from its cone.  How many of us have walked through a rain forest teeming with life, navigating narrow cable bridges high above the forest floor as creatures call out to one another that visitors have come a calling?

The sights, the sounds, the food, the drink and the pineapple.  Oh, the pineapple.  How that innocuous grocery store fruit has garnered new respect. Organically grown, hand-harvested, opened with a blade and eaten with the fingers, just like the native peoples of Brazil did when they first discovered the fruit all those centuries ago.  Lucky for us the pineapple found its way to Costa Rica; the fruit of royalty now fit for commoners who seek out a splash of rum to perk up the pineapple’s punch.

Here in Costa Rica the locals have a saying: “Pura Vida,” which loosely translates to the pure life, the good life, that all is right with the world.  And depending on one’s inflection it can take on many meanings and emotions.  You’ve just one the lottery! “Pura Vida!”  You’ve lost your passport! “Aye, pura vida,” the emphasis low and worrisome.

But pura vida is really an attitude and it’s become the roadmap for those who live in this little slice of heaven.  The last four days have been incredible, but tempered by the reality that we’re just visitors here, of our own device.  Central America is still many decades behind the U.S. in just about every important aspect, and seeing it firsthand has given many a class member a greater appreciation for the place we call home.

“It was eye-opening,” said Mardell Sibley.  “I couldn’t get over how patient people were, particularly when you look at the pace at which they worked.  How hard the work was too, for such low pay.  We’ll never know what that’s like.”

“It makes me really realize just how truly blessed we are in America,” said Drew Wiggers.

No truer words were ever spoken Drew.  No need to elaborate.

No doubt members of Class 13 will reflect on what they saw over the last 13 days;  abject poverty in Nicaragua, a canal in Panama that generates $6 million a day in revenues, and a Central American labor force that works for the same hourly wages Henry Ford paid his autoworkers in 1922.

As I’ve often told my children, being born in America is 95 percent of the battle.  It’s what you do with the other 5 percent to protect our way of life that matters most.

For most class members the takeaway boiled down to this; America is the greatest country on earth.  But America’s changing.  We’ve lost a part of ourselves to the welfare state, particularly when you look at the work ethic of many in Central America.  In Panama there are no social programs.  To quote one of our guides, “You don’t work, you don’t eat.”

We saw Nicaraguan cigar factory workers glad to have a $9 a day job.  Despite their low wages it was obvious they took pride in their abilities to create a quality cigar, even if they were doing it in a country that tortured and murdered those of differing opinions.

There’s a growing sentiment in our country that success is something to be frowned upon, as if you have to apologize for it because you’re better off than someone else. I know some folks who feel that way, and no matter how hard I try to convince them otherwise, their attitude remains that if there’s enough for one, there’s enough for all.

Those in Class 13 know otherwise.  They are the lucky ones, the committed and the empowered; the impassioned  and the innovative.  They are the ones who will lead the charge, and by extension, hopefully lead the change our country so desperately needs right now. 

But changing the world can wait another few days.  Right now we’re tired but happy, missing those back home whom we know will be waiting with open arms, a warm smile and an embrace that always reminds us that be it ever so humble…well, you know the rest.

So leave the porch light on, baby.  We’re coming home.

San Jose station…signing off…

 

The Votes Are In…And The Winner is…Apathy

February 2, 2014

Sunday was Election Day here in Costa Rica and Class 13 was split in their support of the candidates for president.

Donnie Wooley and Danielle Yerby supported Johnny Araya for president.  Danielle wore her candidate’s colors, green and white and waved a green and white flag.  Kristin McLaren was pulling for Luis Guillermo, whose supporters handed her a red T-shirt bearing his web address.  With 60 percent expected voter turnout, it’s doubtful class members had enough political stroke to sway the election, particularly since they weren’t allowed to vote.  But that didn’t stop the candidates’ supporters from letting them score some serious Election Day swag.

At a stop in a small community outside San Jose on our way to the city, we had a chance to see the election process.  In addition to president Costa Ricans were voting for a host of local officials.  Class members stopped at one polling place inside a school that had all the trappings of a typical Louisiana election stop; except that signs, banners and supporters were allowed inside the polling place.

Our guide Jenny said there hasn’t been a lot of excitement about this year’s presidential election.  Voters are disenchanted over national and local corruption, she said, as well as the usual apathy when it comes to one’s ability to fight City Hall.

Sound familiar?

For a national election there’s been a surprising lack of political signs, billboards, ads and bumper stickers around the country.  Except for the entourage of presidential candidate Johnny Araya.  As we entered San Jose his motorcade rolled along side the bus as we drove through downtown.  The vehicles were flying big green and white flags, as well as sporting big bumper stickers. (See the photo)

Donnie and Danielle supporting Johnny Araya and suddenly his crew rolls by?  What are the odds?  Like the rest of this trip our timing has been impeccable.

We spent much of the early afternoon Sunday shopping in downtown San Jose.  Most of the souvenirs in the local markets were made in China.  There was a time when a local gift shop featured local fare, but that time has long passed.  Ed Reeves, his wife Anne, Jim Monroe and I had lunch at McDonald’s off the main square.  Ed said he really wanted some Mickey Ds.  Anne, however, said she only eats at the Golden Arches once every 10 years.  She promised to call me in 2024 to see if we’d like to join her again.

We checked into our final hotel at around 2 p.m. to we grab a quick nap and get ready for the final class dinner which begins at 6 p.m.  Stay tuned for my final post coming later tonight.

Until next time…

 

Check Out the New Posts Below

February 1, 2014

Hey folks, check out my two new posts below.  The net is very slow here.  The copy loaded, but if you don’t see any new photos it’s because the hotel couldn’t provide enough bandwidth.

A final post coming tomorrow as we wrap up our tour of Central America on Monday.

Thanks for following us.

So this guy walks into a bar with a banana in one hand and a pineapple in the other…

February 1, 2014

If you refer to a banana plant as a tree Carlos Gamboa will point his razor sharp machete at you and tell you not to call it that.

At the Dole Banana Plantation today outside La Fortuna the class learned everything there is to know about the banana.  It really is the perfect food.

For example a banana is an herb and not a tree.

“This plant is 90 percent water,” Gamboa said, taking his machete and splitting a plant vertically from top to bottom as Jeremy Raley, who was holding it upright, cautiously watched.  “Trees are made of wood.  If this was wood, could you do this?”

Indeed.

The plantation operates 200 hectares, or about 500 acres, in some of the lushest conditions in the world.  And to provide the U.S. with half the bananas grown at his plantation, Gamboa said his farm has to have both quality and quantity.

The farm’s banana plants number 1,700 to the hectare.  That’s 340,000 “herbs” farmwide.  Each plant produces just one bunch and after it’s harvested the tree (sorry) is cut down to make way for a new plant.  The bunches average about 75 pounds each and each bunch, as it’s maturing, is covered in blue plastic.  Katie Ramagos even climbed a ladder during the tour to demonstrate how the process works.

And just like a baby, it takes nine months from fertilization to harvest.  Gamboa’s T-shirt featured a baby coming out of a banana peel.

Bananas have been grown in Costa Rica commercially since 1876.  Today the Dole plantation is the leader in quality banana production.  And while 50 percent of the plant’s Costa Rican crop is bound for the U.S., Americans are not the leading consumers of bananas.  It’s Sweden, according to Gamboa, which consumes 42 pounds of bananas per person per year.  That’ a lot of herbs.

Our afternoon stop can only be described as a Rodney Dangerfield act inside a farm wagon, rather than a Vegas nightclub.

Michael (forgive me, I didn’t get his last name), the production manager of the Finca Corsicana organic pineapple farm was something out of a Cohen Brothers movie.  The guy had the class screaming with laughter as he joked about the sweetness of his pineapples, all the while testing our knowledge of pineapple production.

But the serious side of Finca Corsicana, a Texas-based company, is that 70 percent of its production is organic, making it one of the largest producers of organic pineapples in the world.  There’s about a 75 percent chance that if you buy a pineapple in Whole Foods it came from Finca Corsicana plantation.

During our wagon tour of the farm we got to taste what had to be the freshest, sweetest pineapple in the world.  Seriously.  There’s nothing better than fresh from the field.

The pineapple tour ended with each of us being served a “pina colada” in a pineapple cup.  You had to be there to understand just how amazing this drink tasted.

Jim shot lots of great photos of both events today and you can check them out on the site.  Tomorrow will be a day of rest for us as we return to San Jose for our final night in country.  Along the way we’ll stop in a town to witness Costa Ricans going to the polls to elect a new president.  It’s a big deal here and our timing couldn’t be better.

Until next time…

Who is Class XIII (Part 2)

February 1, 2014

There’s still a prevailing notion that women in agriculture are something of a novelty.  That’s like saying women might one day make it to the boardroom.

While women do make up a small percentage of farm-owner/operators, (less than 6 percent nationwide), the number of women taking a more active role in agriculture is on the upswing.

Katie Ramagos is one such woman.  As business manager for Ramagos Farms, Katie made the decision to return to her family’s sugar operation after a few years in the business world.  And while she admits she doesn’t drive a tractor everyday, her management skills are just as important as the farm’s cane harvesters.

My relationship with the Ramagos family goes back nearly 30 years.  Katie’s uncle and I worked together in the newspaper business in the mid-1980s.  Her father and I have known each other for almost as long.  Her mother is a fine photographer in her own right and when we see each other we always talk cameras and our latest photo expeditions.

Katie signed up for AgLeadership because she’s serious about making a difference in agriculture.  “Let it be known that you want to be part of the family farm,” she told TWILA during a brief profile last year.  Katie’s definitely shouting, albeit quietly, her support for agriculture from the mountaintops.

I met Ed Reeves for the first time on this trip.  Ed’s one of those guys you feel like you’ve known for years after just a few minutes.  A farm and commercial property manager for A. Wilbert’s Sons, Ed works with more than 12,000 acres of row crops.  You can tell when he’s on the job he’s all business.  Such responsibility demands it.  But afterhours Ed’s easy-going, always quick with a smile and a kind greeting.  It’s this combination which makes him a valuable asset to the future of agriculture.  He knows his stuff, but always willing to see all sides of an issue.  His wife Anne is traveling with us and I know he’s enjoyed this trip even more because she’s by his side.

I met Joey Register more than two decades ago when he was part of our YF&R program.  Joey’s commitment to agriculture began as a child when he and his brother vowed to one day make their living off the land.  Today J&L Farms and Register Brothers, LLC raises poultry and cattle in DeSoto Parish.  Joey is a guy constantly striving to improve the efficiency factor in agriculture.  He never stops moving and if it weren’t for his wife Lisa bringing balance to what he admits are sometimes “harebrained” endeavors, Joey would never stop long enough to sleep.

Everyone loves a good storyteller, and by extension, everyone love A.J. Sabine.  As co-executive producer of “This Week in Louisiana Agriculture,” you’ll not find a better image-maker than A.J.  I’ve had the privilege of working along side him for the last 10 years and his stories continue to amaze me.  The guy can shoot, write and edit news packages that draw you into the usually complex, but always compassionate world of agriculture.  The ag community is lucky to have an advocate like A.J. telling their story.

Guillermo Scalia sometimes reminds me of the favorite uncle of the family.  You know, the guy everybody’s happy to see.  A man who eases into the room and immediately begins dispensing laughter, praise and a few crisp $5 dollar bills?  But in this AgLeadership class “Doc” is known for his worldview and razor sharp perspective of global agriculture.  As associate professor at the AgCenter’s Iberia Research Station, Guillermo’s expertise in beef nutrition and management makes him a tremendous asset to an organization hammered by five years of budget cuts.  Despite the financial assault on the AgCenter, Guillermo is ready to stand in the breach to defend his organization with knowledge and, most importantly, common sense.

Mardell Sibley is as quiet as she is engaging.  She and I visited only briefly during this trip, but you get the sense that when Mardell has something to say, you’d better pay attention.  As the St. Landry Parish executive director for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Mardell has an extremely complex job administering federal commodity and conservation programs for the USDA.  I image many a farmer has relied on Mardell to help him navigate the labyrinth of federal farm programs that I’m certain will only become more difficult in the future.

Bobby Skeen’s father Jimmy and I worked together at the News-Star-World 30 years ago when I was a cub reporter and he was the newspaper’s circulation manager.  Which means I know where Bobby acquired his sense of humor and easy-going manner.  As regional communications manager for The Cotton Board, Bobby lives and breathes cotton, and not just because he plays for the home team.  Cotton has been in a state of flux, particularly in Louisiana, for the better part of the last decade.  Bobby understands this and never stops promoting an industry that’s been the backbone of the U.S. agricultural economy since America first called itself a nation.  And don’t get him started on the Jerry Clower impersonations.  You’ll bust a gut for sure. Haawww!

Ross Thibodeaux is a young farmer taking on lots of responsibility when it comes to production agriculture.  As a partner in the Thibodeaux Ag Group, Ross helps manage 8,500 acres of rice, soybeans and crawfish.  While Ross is quiet at times you get the sense that his mind is always working, always on the lookout for ways to improve efficiency.  The first step to a successful farming operation is a good plan and Ross looks like a great planner.

Josh Vines is general manager of service for Goldman Equipment, the largest farm implement dealer in Northeast Louisiana.  Josh is pretty quiet as well, but his street smarts do much of his talking for him.  A young leader in ag, Josh and his company are setting the pace for the future of mechanized agriculture.  Keeping up with technology is his stock in trade and his participation in AgLeadership will serve him well.

I first met members of the Wiggers family when I killed the family dog, but that’s another story.  Fortunately Drew and the rest of the Wiggers didn’t hold it against me.  As a young farmer Drew is straight out of central casting.  An imposing young man with a full beard, you can tell he puts his 6-foot-plus frame to the test everyday around the farm.  But don’t let his rough hands and size-12 work boots fool you.  Drew, like the other members of his farming family, holds a deep passion for his profession.  But it’s a quick check of his large rodeo belt buckle that really tells his story.  It features the three crosses, a testament to his unwavering faith in a higher power.  He led grace at his dinner table last night.  And as any farmer will tell you, the power of prayer is just as important as anything that goes into the planter.

It doesn’t take long to pick up on the fact that Donnie Wooley is a banker.  As owner of Ark-La-Tex Financial Consultants LLC, Donnie sees the P&L in everything.  And that’s not a bad thing.  During the tours his questions were always centered on the financial end of an operation.  And they should.  No one runs a business for his or her health.  His fellow classmates often tease him about the money.  Donnie put his faith, his trust and his money in Joey Register’s operation and the two have become the best of friends.  As any farmer will tell you, the three things you need to be successful in this business are good equipment, good weather and a good banker.

Like Brandon Gravois, Ryan and Danielle Yerby were finalists for the Farm Bureau’s 2013 YF&R Achievement Award.  But Ryan and his family aren’t in this business for awards; they’re in it for family.  The couple has a newborn, and like all new fathers Ryan now sees his world in a new light. Farming 3,500 acres of grain, cattle and pecans is a major juggling act and the pressures of fatherhood and farming are enough to change anyone’s disposition, particularly a young farm couple.  But to listen to Ryan and Danielle speak so passionately about the profession they love, you know that deep down they’re going to be just fine.  And agriculture will be the better because of them.

Until next time…

Good Morning From Costa Rica

February 1, 2014

A belated shout-out happy birthday to Josh Vines, who celebrated his 29th trip around the sun last night.  We celebrated with a cake provided by the restaurant.

We sang Happy Birthday, which was followed by the hotel staff, led by Dr. Guillermo Scaglia, singing Happy Birthday in Spanish.

We wrapped up early yesterday and some of us spent the late afternoon sitting by the pool enjoying an adult beverage.  Today it’s a tour of a pineapple and banana plantation.  We also move to a new hotel.

I’ve included a few new photos, including my “roommate” from last night, a large hopper who decided to get up early, crawl across my head and jump to the floor.  Who needs the snooze button when you’ve got a three-inch grasshopper in your bed?

Until next time…

A Word About Today’s Posts

January 31, 2014

We had another great day today.  We visited a sugarcane plantation, followed by lunch and a stop at the Iguana Ice Cream Shoppe. 

Some of us were dropped on in La Fortuna where we spent the remainder of the afternoon shopping.  As promised I was able to get some more photos from class members from our visit to the Hanging Bridge Rainforest.  Thanks to Ed Reeves, Susie Fair and Lisa Register for letting me upload their photos to the blog.

There are two posts tonight. (see below)  There are 46 new photos and a video (hopefully) of a worker cutting sugarcane by hand.  We check out in the morning bound for La Quinta.  We’ll visit a banana plantation and a pineapple farm.  We’ll post photos and another story tomorrow.

Thanks for following us as we wrap up our adventure here in Central America.  Check out the stories below and we’ll see you here tomorrow.

Until next time…