It is said that the best way to learn about the world is to go out and see it for yourself, so that’s exactly what I did on May 13, 2022. I hopped on a plane with my program leader and 23 of my peers, and we made the long journey to the stunning and far away country of Greece. The title of this study abroad program from the University of Minnesota is “Greek Agriculture and Gastronomy,” so I knew that this experience would be right up my alley of food and agriculture!We started our journey in the Northern city of Thessaloniki, where you can find the American Farm School, also known as Perrotis College. This campus was so unique because there is a school for all ages of children from pre-school to college, and everyone is connected to agriculture every step of the way. Several crops are growing right on campus, including wine grapes, olives, and barley, in addition to smaller vegetables such as cucumbers and peppers. They also have animals such as dairy cows and chickens. The surrounding community can buy olive oil, wine, eggs, and cheese that were produced right on campus by the students from the campus store.
After spending a week on campus and listening to several lectures on many topics such as precision agriculture, the Mediterranean diet, olive oil, and medicinal herbs, it was time to move on from Thessaloniki.
I won’t go into detail about the many other places we visited, but a few highlights include the beaches of Halkidiki, the ancient monasteries of Meteora, the trails of Mount Olympus, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and of course, the Acropolis in Athens. I highly recommend looking at pictures of all these places, but be warned, it may give you the itch to travel and see them for yourself.
While visiting these places we ate so much food, and some of my favorite things included feta cheese pies, tzatziki, and dolma (vine leaves stuffed with rice). It is very common for Greek people to have a sit-down meal at a restaurant that lasts for about four hours, just talking with their company and enjoying the food and drinks.In addition to the focus on enjoying meals, there is a lot of thought put into preparing meals. At one restaurant, my friend was ordering a dish with cabbage, but the owner taking our order explained that is not possible because “the cabbage is no good at this time of year.” I was stunned. At home, a restaurant would have simply shipped cabbage in from somewhere else, but here they take extra pride in the dishes and only want them served if they will be at their best.
This country’s culture is so connected with the world of food and agriculture! I became a little jealous, because when I am home, I am often frustrated with the level of disconnect we see between consumers and producers. The people of Greece understand where their food comes from, and their mealtimes and family mean everything to them. Perhaps there is a thing or two we can learn from them. If you want to hear more about Greece, all you have to do is ask me! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Yamas! (Cheers!)
Mikayla grew up near Osceola, Wis. She discovered her passion for the dairy industry while working on her neighbors’ Holstein dairy farm. That spurred her involvement in 4-H and FFA, and following graduation from Osceola High School, she headed to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in agricultural communication and marketing. During the school year, she worked as a website designer for the University of Minnesota department of animal science, and last summer, she was a farmer relations intern for Midwest Dairy. Peper is serving as the 2022 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern.