EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, held in Memphis, Tenn., is now considered global in nature with the increasing number of international exhibitors and attendees. This past March, three Costa Rican men, Jose Ma Aguero, Donald Stewart and Emerson Aguero visited the show to learn more about the latest available rice technology. In Costa Rica, rice primarily is produced for domestic consumption.
In an exclusive interview with Rice Farming magazine, Jose Ma Aguero, from the northwest Province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, tells about their backgrounds and describes the trio’s first-time experience at the 2009 Mid-South Farm & Gin Show.
Q. Please describe the different roles you, Donald and Emerson play in the Costa Rican rice industry.
Jose Ma Aguero: I’m a rice farming consultant with 30 years experience in rice cultivation and agricultural project development. I have been the operations and general manager for several large agricultural corporations in Costa Rica. For the last 14 years, I have been consulting in rice agronomy and land development in Panama, Costa Rica and East/West Africa.
I’m also Donald Stewart’s consultant in a new service I provide called “Cropcheck,” which is a benchmarking and monitoring for farm operations and crop management, setting targets to be achieved under certain conditions to ensure top yields. I also advise him on new technology for farming operations like DGPS-RTK machine guidance; site-specific nutrient management, etc.
Donald Stewart is a third generation farmer, who was born in Costa Rica. He grows more than 2,000 hectares of rice every year under irrigation. Donald also provides custom/contract services to neighboring farms, especially a large sugarcane mill that he trades land with for crop rotation.
The sugar mill gives cane fields for new planting to Donald for a two-year period of rice cultivation. In return, Don then gives back the same area under rice cultivation for sugarcane planting. That way, both crops grow under favorable conditions since weed populations are very different for each crop and easy to manage with corresponding herbicides and management practices. Also, there is a benefit from soil nutrient supply and pest changes – at least for the first year.
Emerson Aguero is my brother and is John Deere’s only salesman in Costa Rica. He has worked for the local dealer (MATRA) for 15 years. Emerson also is the top agricultural machinery salesperson in Costa Rica and top John Deere salesperson in Central America. He is very knowledgeable, having had vast experience in land leveling and grain harvesting prior to becoming a sales person. He is Donald’s trusted person when it comes to choosing a tractor or implement.
Q. How did you learn about the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, and what were you hoping to accomplish by attending the event?
Jose Ma Aguero: We came to know about the Gin Show by a mailing that was sent to Donald by someone in RomePlow Co. At that time, Donald was interested in purchasing a real heavy duty disk plow (he already owns a Rome plow); a no-till drill planter and an auto guidance system for his cane operations. We found what we were looking for even though RomePlow did not even attend the show!
We saw heavy duty disk plows, auto guidance systems and no-till planters. We also found a lot more than expected: self-propelled sprayers for rice operations, farm software and new implements for minimum-tillage and row-crop cultivation.
Q. How would you describe your overall impression of the trade show? What do you feel was the most impressive or the most informative part of the show?
Jose Ma Aguero: Our impression is we need to keep coming back again and again, maybe every two to three years to see what’s new! We are very happy with our decision to visit the Gin Show, and the attention by show executives was superb (really thankful to Mr. Tim Price and team).
We liked the city of Memphis very much and enjoyed dining out in downtown’s restaurants/cafes. We also enjoyed experiencing a full snow fall – something we never, never have in the tropics!
The most informative part of the Gin Show is that in a small area we found everything we were seeking and much more. It is a well planned event that hosts a variety of technologies and exhibitors to cover the most important areas of modern farming.
Q. Did you have an opportunity to meet U.S. rice farmers while you were here? If so, what type of discussions about rice farming did you have?
Jose Ma Aguero: Yes, we met with Mr. Chris Isbell and his family, who live in England, Ark. He is a progressive farmer whose innovations helped him adapt to very challenging soil conditions (heavy clays). I have known Chris since 1991, and we have become good friends.
Our main discussion themes are related to “red rice control” in rice-rice-rice cultivation. We share ideas, experiences in herbicides, nitrogen management, agronomy practices, no-till operations, irrigation control, etc. as well as growing sweet pineapples in his backyard (someday!) because his wife Judy loves them so much.
Q. How would you summarize your overall experience at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show and the time you spent in Memphis and/or the surrounding area?
Jose Ma Aguero: It was a great experience for us three, especially for Donald who found the information he needed for no-till drills and auto guidance. We visit other trade shows from time to time, but we liked the way that everything is packed together here! And Memphis is a nice city – warm and friendly. We will visit many more times in the future.
In summarizing, attending the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show was an enriching experience for us!