Organic Farming in Nicaragua

In a way, GLI sophomore Leah Payne didn’t choose to look at sustainable farming. Sustainable farming chose her.

“I went to a lecture last year about sustainable farming. That’s what got me interested in it,” Leah says. “Then I worked in potato fields this last summer and it was amazing. There are fields and fields of these enormous potatoes filled with fertilizer and it sucks all the nutrients out of the soil. We produce so much food; it’s much cheaper to go industrial and more expensive to go organic.”

But Leah believes there’s a happy medium between industrialized and organic farming.

“I don’t think there’s a right answer,” she says. “There are pros and cons to both sides, but more and more, farmers are finding organic works so much better in the long term."        

To study the effects of organic vs. industrialized farming, Leah will venture to Chacraseca, Nicaragua as part of the Global Student Embassy Program. She’ll work with the local school in Chacraseca, growing and harvesting food to feed schoolchildren.

“Nicaragua is trying to promote organic farming,” Leah says. “I want to learn about it firsthand, and then bring that experience back to Missoula.”

As part of her GLI experience, Leah will be looking at farming in Nicaragua and farming in Montana, comparing and contrasting organic versus industrialized farming methods and their effects on the economy, population size, and culture of the area.

“In America we want things now, and you get that with industrialized farming,” she says. “But pretty soon the land is infertile because all the nutrients are sucked away. That’s not how it happens naturally.”

“Missoula does a great job of eating locally. In other parts of Montana, much of our food is shipped elsewhere. Then it might get processed and restored on a shelf. That’s how America works. You harvest all this food and ship it out.” This is why Leah believes that the University of Montana is a great place to study sustainable farming.

Leah left June 21 for Nicaragua where she is making organic fertilizers, learning the natural history of the area, and using organic pest control, while planting, harvesting, growing, and grafting trees. When she returns in the fall semester, she’ll start working towards her GLI capstone project, learning innovative framing techniques that combine the efficiency of industrialized farming with the safety of organic farming.