Mexico Field Study 2009

2009 Tour Participants
Field study participants with Mazahua Indigenous community members of the Ejido San Felipe del Progresso
(highlands of Central Mexico, August 20th, 2009)

Itinerary: August 17- August 30

  Mon. 17th Tue. 18th Wed. 19th Thu. 20th Fri. 21th Sat. 22th Sun. 23th

☼ Depart O'Hare (1:55 p.m.)

☼ Arrive Mexico City (8:00 p.m.)

Teotihuácan: Pyramid of the Sun and more.

☼ Cuautitlán: ALPURA dairy coop & plant.

☼ Xinantécatl Volcano Nevado de Toluca

☼ Fish farming (Trout production) in Valle de Bravo

Group reflection activity

☼ Mazahua Indigenous Ejido of San Felipe del Progresso (highlands of Central Mexico)1

☼ Small-scale cheese making factory in Aculco1

☼ Small-scale campesino dairy production1

PROMAF a Micro-credits to small farmers2

☼ "La Hondanada" (organic dairy grazing Jerseys)2

Group reflection activity

☼ Free time

☼ Querétaro historical center

☼ Travel through Guanajuato to Jalisco

Night (Hotel) Mexico City
Hotel Ramada
Hotel Plaza Morelos
Hotel Casablanca
Hotel Mirage
S. Juan de Los Lagos
Hotel Estancia Real
1Visits of small scale farming and dairy processing organized by colleagues of the State of Mexico University (UAEM, CICA) in Toluca.
2Visits organized by colleagues of the "Tech de Monterrey" in Queretaro.

  Mon. 24th Tue. 25th Wed. 26th Thu. 27th Fri. 28th Sat. 29th Sun. 30th

PROAN Industrial-scale feed mill and production of laser printed eggs, milk and pork3

☼ University of Guadalajara, CUALTOS campus (welcome from Rector María Esther Alvarez)

PROLEA Cooperative of small and mid-size dairy farmers including a cooperative heifer raising facility.

☼ Travel to Autlán de Navaro

☼ Drive up the Mountain (Sierra de Manantlán)

Biosphere Reserve and scientific station Las Joyas4

Group reflection activity Evening and night at the station

☼ Drive down the Mountain

Rio Ayuquila water quality restoration project

☼ Remote community of Zenzontla (downstream of Rio Ayuquila)

☼ Travel to Pacific coast.

☼ Free time

Group reflection activity

Tropical dairy, meat and coconut production (Tecomán)

☼ Return to Guadalajara

☼ Historic center of Guadalajara (Hospicio Cabañas, Cathedral, etc.)

Study Tour Evaluation

☼ Depart Guadalajara (11:55 a.m.)

☼ Arrive Chicago (6:34 p.m.)

Night (Hotel) S. Juan de Los Lagos
Autlán de Navaro
Hotel Autlan
Scientific station of Las Joyas Manzanillo
Hotel La Posada
Hotel De Mendoza
3Visits in Jalisco during the second week are organized with colleagues of the University of Gualdalajara, Campus of CUALTOS in Tepatitlán, Jalisco and campus of CUCSUR, Autlán de Navaro.
4 This station is where a wild perennial corn (Zea diploperennis) believed to be the ancestor of current corn was discovered by University of Guadalajara scientists in collaboration with UW-Madison scientists in the 1970s. Use this map and film to learn more about the biosphere reserve and the river Ayuquila. See also the following case study developed by faculty of the UW-Madison Institute for Environmental Studies.

Documenting Participants' Learning, in their Own Words...

During the two week field study course in Mexico, class participants were asked to record their observations and thoughts in a travel notebook. There were two types of entries:

1) Portfolio entries. Portfolio entries include things that students had learned, thought about or talked about during the experience. Suggested categories for portfolio entries included:
  • Documenting their understanding of cultural differences between Mexico and the U.S.
  • Documenting their reflection on our own U.S. culture; and
  • Documenting their thoughts and learning about food production, processing, marketing and agriculture (dairy) in Mexico as an emerging economy. Students were encouraged to use a photo to reflect on in making their portfolio entries.

2) Field Course Evaluations. In their self evaluations, participants reflected on what they gained from the overall experience. They were asked to reflect on the following in evaluating their learning:
  • Go back to your notes from each of your top 3 visits. What made those visits so interesting to you?
  • Using three examples, connect what you have learned during the visits with what we discussed during the spring semester in class.
  • How has the trip influenced your perspective of Mexico?
    • A - Misunderstandings and stereotypes of Mexico/Mexicans.
    • B - How your opinion has changed of Mexicans living in the US.
  • How has the trip influenced your perspective of the US?
  • For you, what was the most rewarding experience of the study tour?
  • What was the most quirky experience you had on the tour and how did you cope with it?

Projects. A few students opted to work collaboratively with a high school teacher to develop a curriculum project related to the content of the field course. View projects by following the links next to participants' names.

In Participants' Own Words...

Jade Buchholz | Dear Dad...Don Eduardo
  • "For me the most rewarding experience has been traveling to Mexico. I have never been here before so it has been a crazy adventure. Everything from the food, airports, language barrier, dairy farms and poverty stricken areas has been fascinating. The experience has also broken a lot of stereotypes that I had. As we came into Mexico City I expected to see a lot of crime and didn’t expect to see such modern technology. Having the opportunity to be able to put myself in someone else’s shoes has been eye opening and a once in a lifetime experience."

  • "I had trouble getting adjusted and trying new foods. I consider myself a picky eater so I knew I would have to face this challenge. I found myself looking for fast food chains on the street and occasionally eating at them. I did however try a variety of foods that were new to me and I was happy I stepped out of my box."

  • "I respect the Mexicans who live in the US much more now. The Mexicans on our farm are very hard working just like I’m sure their families are. I feel much more connected and have a better sense of their history and culture."

Patrick Crave | Dear Mom and Dad...
  • "My perspective of the US hasn’t really changed because of this trip but it reinforces how lucky we are here in the US. I try to appreciate how lucky I am but eventually you lose the feeling of gratification. Going on this trip helped me appreciate the little things like running water and being able to flush the toilet. Also good, clean water you can get from the kitchen, not a bottle. Its amazing some of the things you can take for granted. "

  • "This trip has changed my perspective of Mexico a lot, but in a good way. After touring some of the big operations like Alpura and PROAN. It was very obvious that Mexico isn’t just struggling farmers milking by hand and also that agriculture is very important. I always pictured Mexican farms all to be run down and low quality but it wasn’t always the case. There are still small farmers milking by hand, but contrary to my belief there are some very nice, large, high-tech farms too. "

  • "My most quirky experience was when we would shake hands with the women. I would never know whether to kiss them or not. It was awkward at first when I would go to greet them so eventually I hid in the back until people went before me so I got an idea of what to do."

Josh Hamborg | Capitán Cómatose...Eating Out in Mexico | Josh's Project: Mexico's Dairy Industry: Large and Small Scale
  • "I now have a better understanding of how deep Mexico’s history runs. Not just the pyramids but places like Alculco’s that are very old places with many layers. Although Alculco’s layers I felt were some what creepy and strange the number of places we visited helped me get a more complete picture of the diversity that exists even just around the state of Mexico."

  • "My top visit was to the pyramids. I really like them because of the cultural and global importance of the place. There was a lot to see and there were so many beautiful works of art. It’s especially amazing because in the US there isn’t that same kind of history, at least in the Midwest. It was a unique experience for me that gave me the chance to see what another culture from another time was capable of doing."

Yoshi Hiroko | Too Much and Too Little...A Rainbow for Corn | Yoshi's Project: The Flow of Water
  • "The complexity of agricultural trade issues – there is no single answer for that. For example, micro-credit is good for increasing the domestic supply of food in Mexico and increases food security. But in turn the farms are forced to produce hybrid and the low productivity curve like maize azul will be lost. It also put the high pressure on the land under production. "

  • "I definitely see the point made in class that the livestock are not just for milk or meat but also for savings accounts, fertilizer for manure, transportation, and helping with tilling and plowing the field."

  • "This trip gave me a human face on articles and journals about the agricultural issues."

Abbie Holig | Comparing Sustainability
  • "In San Felipe Del Progresso it was evident that the people only had the land to live off of and it was a lot like what we talked about in class. These people were so secluded from the rest of the world but knew how to survive by trying new things and seeing what would happen. The people know the land so well and do their best to take care of it. We talked about the subsistence smallholder farmers but it didn’t all click until we met them. "

  • "The Rio Ayuquila was another great example of a group of people that relied heavily on a certain geographic feature. Many of these people made a living or ate from that river and when it was destroyed they were left with nothing. Leaving everything or finding a new means of income was the only choice for these people and it is hard for me to understand relying on something so much."

  • "I now look at Mexico as a country with potential and many possibilities in the future. When I first thought of Mexico all I pictured was poverty and no successful businesses."

Brandon Kruswick | The Way of Farming Life in Mexico
  • "I was purely amazed at the sustainability of these people and how they are able to survive with solely 2 cows, 2 mules, a few sheep and an acre of land...It is one thing to be taught about how the agriculture in these parts works, but it is a whole other story when you actually experience the lifestyle firsthand. It was nice to discuss the visit in class before hand so I had a little bit of an idea of what to expect and it wasn’t as big of a shock to me. "

  • "The other surprising fact was that it was organic. I have never been to an organic dairy farm before and quite honestly, I was surprised how the cows looked. I expected them to all be skinny and sick looking but they looked pretty healthy. Another shocking fact was the efficiency to milk that many cows in such a quick manner."

  • "One example was the micro-credits that we talked about at Maria’s family farm. During class I didn’t really understand the whole concept of the micro-credits and how it all worked. Actually hearing how they work from someone who is in the business really helped my understanding of the issue. I think it is a great program to help the country become more advanced in the dairy industry and be able to compete on a worldwide scale."

Eric Ronk | Manure Handling Procedures in Mexico
  • "During the seminar, we really discussed a lot about small dairy producers in Mexico. We spent a great deal of time discussing the differences in the “improved” cow and the “un-improved” cow. This was very evident while visiting the small farms in Mexico. There is definitely a difference in the cows but this is because it depends on the situation. Several of the large farms were using imported AI semen from some of the top bulls but other smaller farms were mostly just using jumper bulls. It was very interesting seeing firsthand how the small farms work. There are a lot of similarities between large farms and small farms because it still takes the same things but it is how you go about it. I still found it hard to believe how many farmers still milk by hand and have the money to buy milk machines but do not really feel the need."

  • "I was extremely interested in viewing how a large dairy operates in Mexico in comparison to the United States. This was one of my first experiences seeing a rotary parlor in operation. I really thought the dairy operation seemed very similar to large dairy operations in the United States."

  • "This was also my first time traveling outside the country so I really got the feeling of what it was like to be an outsider. I now know what it feels like to get those “weird” looks from the native people. After this trip, I really feel like a have a better overall understanding of Mexicans that I didn’t have before."

Destanie Schneider | Comparison of Farming Systems | Destanie's Project: The Impacts of Microorganisms on You and Your Neighbors across Borders
  • "This visit made me think that it doesn’t matter if you have a small farm/big farm, technology/simple, you still have the same tasks to finish each day. This farmer knew so much about the techniques and practices of his dairy – probably more than some farmers at home. If something wasn’t going right he tried to fix the problem one solution at a time. It was really amazing to meet his father who was from the US but loved his life on the farm in Mexico."

  • "A second topic we talked about was the Dual-purpose Dairy. Many of us came from backgrounds where we see products that are strictly dairy or beef. Seeing both together is really different. Once we got to the farm we could see why it had to be dual-purpose. The conditions such as climate, forage and diseases were not great for dairy production."

  • "Before when I thought of Mexico, I thought of mostly poor people. We were able to see many different places and types of people on the tour. We saw the large companies like Alpura and Proan which blew most of us away. I was especially impressed by the technology used in most places."

Stephanie Sierra | Sustainability Rankings of Livestock Systems...A Petition
  • "I feel like I have much more respect for the complexity of immigration and the motives for which people choose to migrate. Also, the trip has helped me understand the importance of finding a community and special foods for many immigrants since both community and food are crucial to Mexicans."

  • "I’ve struggled with the concept of what it means to be a good visitor in a foreign country. Our cultures are different and we can’t blend in and travel unnoticed. Therefore, our actions towards both strangers and people we’ve met are always noticed. "

  • "I was very surprised by how advanced the large farms were. I thought it was pretty cool that I saw my first rotating parlor on an organic Jersey farm in Mexico. I was also struck by what a major role some universities seem to play in promoting important social charges. The professor we met was so involved in the community. It was inspiring."

Ashley Sprengeler | Getting to Know the Mexican Students | Ashley's Project: Immigration and Agriculture
  • "Teotihuacan was one of my favorite visits because I really enjoy history and it was neat to be walking around the ruins. I kept thinking how this civilization lived and how they could build such a marvelous set of buildings with such limited resources. I also took a class on the history of Mexico last year and it was neat to see the Temple and pyramids that I studied about and to be able to connect the history with reality."

  • "The visit to PROAN really hit home the topic of “industrial agriculture” that we talked about in class. I knew Mexico has really big farms like the US and I expected the visit to PROAN to be a really big farm, but it was so much more than that. They made their own cardboard, their own egg cartons, recycled their own paper, boxed and shipped their own eggs and made their own rations for the animals. This is something I’ve never seen before in the US. Usually US Ag is highly specified and focuses on one topic – they don’t have huge farms of pigs, poultry, dairy and feed. This “farm” definitely gives new meaning to the word “Industrial Agriculture.”

  • "I learned so much about how the farmers work and live. Now if I were to get a job as a dairy consultant abroad, I will be better prepared and I can connect with the farmers more because I’ve already seen how it is done."


The students' opportunity to learn about Mexico and this web page documenting their experiences have been made possible by many individuals that we may not fully acknowledge here. However, we want to particularly thank the following organizations and individuals:

Our Mexican Partners
  • CUALTOS (Centro Universitario Región de los Altos, Universidad de Guadalajara) - Othón Reynoso, Jesus Olmos, Humberto Ramírez, Hugo Flores
  • UAEM-ICAR (Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico-El Instituto de Ciencias Agropecuarias y Rurales) - Carlos Arriaga, Angélica Espinoza, Luis Brunett, Francisco Herrera, Enrique Espinosa Ayala, Ernesto Martinez Castañeda, Ernesto Sanchez Vera, Benito Albarrán-Portillo, Samuel Rebollar Rebollar, Armando Cardoso, Anastacio Garcia
  • Tech de Monterrey in Queretaro - Maria Guerrero and Andres Garcia

Our University of Wisconsin Partners
  • CALS International Programs - Sharon Baumgartner and Laura Van Toll
  • Department of Dairy Sciences - Laurie Greenberg and Jenni Blazek

Financial support was generously provided by:
  • CALS Scholarship funds
  • The Babcock Institute for Dairy Research and Development
  • USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant - "An Integrated Approach To Curriculum Development in Global Agriculture Emphasizing Relationships and Interdependencies with the U.S." #2007-02470

KeywordsField Study Course Mexico 2009   Doc ID56693
OwnerAntonio A.GroupDS 473 Field Study Abroad
Created2015-09-23 21:40:56Updated2015-09-23 22:14:38
SitesDS 473 Field Study Abroad
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