By Bailey Morrell, AgriPOWER Class X member
Hoping for warmer weather, we boarded the plane for this year’s out-of-state ag destination, Arizona. Our agenda was about as full one as it could get, right down to the minute. It was two days packed with tours of a processing plant where carrots are cleaned and sorted for retail, a stop out at one of our nation’s largest rose farms, a citrus grove where it poured rain (but the fresh-squeezed orange juice was DELICIOUS), graduating from Olive Oil 101 at an olive mill, chatting with the executive director from the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture and so much more!
Of all the stops, the one that will forever stand out in my mind was our trip to the Port of Entry at San Luis. Our alarms were set for 3 a.m. so we could all be on the bus and to the port at its busiest time. Even though we were tired and it was early, I was in awe at the thought that these people do this day in and day out, to work here in the United States.
We experienced how Mexican nationals with working visas crossed by foot through or by vehicle into the United States. Documentation and identification are essential tools for their daily travels. I was surprised to learn that it could take an individual a year, or sometimes more, to work through the paperwork process. It’s well understood across the agricultural industry, whether it’s Arizona, Ohio or any other state in the Union, that the biggest issue they face is a labor shortage.
In fact, that’s one of the top three things San Luis Port Director, John Schwamm said he needs most: people, technology infrastructure and intelligence so that they can most effectively do their jobs. He was very straightforward with our group, leaving politics aside and knowledgeably answered our many questions. The team he operates at the port is a well-oiled machine, and undoubtedly, I left with nothing but respect for his team and the tough job they do to protect our nation every day.
We think Ohio agriculture is diverse, but Arizona has a surprising amount of crop diversity for a desert climate. Near Yuma, where a large amount of the nation’s lettuce is grown, John Dinsmore of Dinsmore Farms took time out of his day to join us on the port tour, relating the dialogue from the port back to its effect on agriculture, as well as talking about his family’s operation. Sadly, Arizona was experiencing a rare rain event during much of our time in the state, so we were not able to visit his fields. However, we did have breakfast and continued the conversation back at his local county Farm Bureau office. John and his family have a great story, and he’s a great Young Ag Professional role model.
A special thanks to Christy Davis of the Arizona Farm Bureau for helping coordinate such an incredible experience! She has the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing farmers and ranchers, and I am thankful that they were all so willing to share their stories, teach us and help us to better understand their passion for agriculture. Thank you!
Applications for AgriPOWER Class XI are being accepted through April 19, 2019.