Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lessons From Spain

My first ever Guest Blogger is none other than my amazing Niece, Jayci Cave.  Jayci is a Senior at Texas Tech University (GUNS UP!!) majoring in Ag Communications with a minor in Ag Economics.  She is the daughter of a third-generation cotton farmer and the grand-daughter of a second generation cotton ginner, so like her Aunt Suzie, she has been surrounded by cotton since the day she was born.  This summer, Jayci spent time in Spain learning about their agriculture from the field to the market place.  She has shared some of her experiences here and has related them back to our beloved West Texas Cotton.
Jayci in a vineyard in Spain

Agriculture.  This one word has many different meanings and every person associates it with something specific to their lives. For me, when I think of agriculture I think of family, hard work, good values, cotton, school, and Spain. Yes you heard me correctly, Spain. 

            My father is third generation dry-land cotton farmer in West Texas. Before this summer, agriculture was something I associated with being home and cotton farming. I am a senior at Texas Tech University pursuing a degree in agricultural communication with a minor in agriculture economics. My education is another one of the many faces I put on agriculture. 

            Now, let’s get back to Spain. When most people think of Spain they probably think of flamenco dancing, Spanish food, or even the beautiful architecture. For me, however, Spain holds a very different meaning. This past June, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Seville, Spain. While there I took two agricultural economics classes, Farm and Ranch Management and Agricultural Marketing. From now on, I will forever associate Spain with agriculture. 
The vineyard "Vinicola"
          While we were in Spain, we had the opportunity to study the industry and look at the different aspects of agriculture. Not only were we able to look at the farming side of things, but also how the products were marketed and how both differed from the practices in the United States. 

            We saw a lot of high-value agriculture while in Spain. Although, we did see a couple of cotton fields, vineyards and olive orchards were much more prominent. We also had the opportunity to visit a strawberry farm, olive press, winery, hog farm, and a ham processing facility. 
What an amazing experience!
             Cotton is a commodity, which means in order to successfully make a living; a large amount of land is needed. With grapes, however, they are a high value product. The vineyard/winery we visited was a cooperative. The cooperatives 400 members own and manage both the cooperative and the winery, which purchase their product. Each member farms around two to six hectares of land; a hectare is approximately two and a half acres. The producers rely solely on the plants to be rain fed and land in the region we visited costs around $13,000 per hectare. When looking at land and production costs, maintaining a vineyard is fairly inexpensive. How nice would it be if a cotton farmer could be successful under these same conditions? 
Non-irrigated grapes!!
             When comparing this operation to those in Texas the first obvious difference is that Texas wineries are not cooperatives. Another major difference is most Texas vineyards are irrigated. The weather does not allow them to be rain fed like the vineyard we toured in Spain. Other than irrigation techniques, most of the farming practices in Spain are very similar to those in the United States. However, the producers in Texas also farm somewhat larger plots. The average plot size is between five and ten acres. One winery in Texas may only get grapes from around 20 producers, while the cooperative in Spain has around 400 members. This is a significant difference in the size of the wineries. 
Barrels and Barrels of Spanish Wine!
             Studying in Spain allowed me to broaden my view of agriculture. When thinking of the word agriculture now, along with my family and cotton, I think of my adventures in Spain and the different aspects of agriculture I was exposed to during my time in Spain.
            What does the word agriculture mean to you?