Swanson School of Engineering Study Abroad Scholarship Blog Post Three: Coffee and Banana Plantations

Hi, my name is Leanne Boody. I am a rising sophomore in the Swanson School of Engineering. I participated in Pitt’s Plus3 program studying in Costa Rica for two weeks to learn more about the country, with a focus on the coffee and banana supply chain. 

In order to get a more detailed understanding of the supply chain in Costa Rica, our groups were assigned one part of the coffee making process and instructed to further dissect the issues involved in this sector. We were meant to offer a feasible solution in order to make the industry more efficient or successful. When exploring the coffee and banana supply chain students are given the opportunity to meet many professionals involved in the process and are even taken through the farms and facilities where the steps take place. The company visits usually involved a tour, followed by a representative of the company who would explain their role in the supply chain process as well as answer our specific questions revolving around our assigned sector of the supply chain. We would then explore on our own at the site, taking photos or purchasing souvenirs. 

At each visit, I was always blown away by the passion of the people leading the visit. I particularly remember one man who was explaining the natural process used to make fertilizer. He had dedicated the past decade of his life to discovering the perfect concoction which utilized discarded parts of the plants grown there as well as animal manure. The craziest part was that he was successful, the fertilizer didn’t have an odor and lowered the company’s waste production. He was not satisfied though, he seemed extremely dedicated to his job, despite it’s repetitive and smelly nature. This dedication was seen throughout the whole trip, whether it was in a tour guide’s pride in their city, a museum guide’s extensive knowledge about past  peoples and their traditions, or the farmer who could explain just why his rotation schedule of coffee plants made for the best beans. All of these people’s passion really made it easy to listen and learn from them, as it seemed like we owed it to these people to share their story. These people had a lot of knowledge to give, and clearly a lot of eagerness to share it.

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