AgWired Editors Travel to Vietnam

Kelly MarshallInternational, ZimmComm

Vietnam group photo

ALOT at the Vietnam National university of Agriculture. Precision editor, Kelly Marshall 1st row, 4th from the left. Animal editor, Jamie Johansen 2nd row, 2nd from the right.

Missouri Agricultural Leadership of Tomorrow (ALOT) has nearly completed their two year program.  As a wrap-up of their study of agriculture the group recently visited Vietnam to gain a global understanding of the industry.  The 20 member participants include two of AgWired’s editors, Jamie Johansen and Kelly Marshall.

Vietnam fish farm

Farmers move catfish to larger ponds with these boats, buckets, and boards. Catfish is a major export in Vietnam.

The trip lasted two weeks and included three major cities in Vietnam.  In the capital city of Hanoi we visited with officials from Vietnam’s Agricultural Extension Center, heard from professors of soils, crops, and animal science at the Vietnam National University of Agriculture, learned about alternatives to the massive overuse of antibiotics at Biospring.  We also ate lunch at DEBACO, a vertically integrated company handling everything from egg production to the processing facility to grocery stores and restaurants.

Vietnam rice fields

Rice research faces its own issues in Vietnam. Only corn and soybean GMOs are allowed.

Flying 1,000 miles south we landed in Can Tho in the heart of the Mekong River Delta.  At Can Tho University we grasp a better understanding of water quality (or lack thereof!) in a country with international rivers.  Despite misgivings about the river, we got to experience a sunrise trip to one of the world’s most interesting sights, the Mekong River Market.  We also made stops at the Cuu Long Rice Research Institute, an elementary school, a rice processing plant, a forestry processing plant, an import/export seafood company, and a fish farm.

Veitnam dairy farm

Most farmers own 3-5 diary cows, making it difficult for researchers to convey best practices to the many small-scale producers. This demo farm is slowly helping to improve production in the area.

Our final destination was the city of Ho Chi Minh, formerly Saigon.  There we saw experiments in dragon fruit production, toured a furniture factory, walked through an Israeli-run Diary Demonstration Farm, and drove through the mangrove forest.  We saw our first soybean and corn fields, which made us nostalgic for our home climate and beans that yield more than 20 bushel/acre, and gratefully tasted Australian beef at our first McDonald’s sighting.

As we arrive back in the states and again immerse ourselves in topics like TPP, the trip has certainly opened our eyes to see things from another vantage point.  I find I am more thankful than ever to live, farm and raise my family in rural America, and at the same time I have greater respect for a life lived in a plywood shack on the banks of a dirty river.

When I come back to my desk and write about topics of interest to AgWired’s readers I see that Vietnam was different, but in many ways, at the core, we are the same.