It’s doubtful that Mike Wilson, area marketing coordinator Wabash Valley Service Center, saw himself riding camels or witnessing tomato plants grafted to pumpkin rootstocks when he submitted his Environmental Respect Awards entry form last spring for Wabash Valley’s Browns, IL, facility. A trip to D.C. in the summer, maybe, but Morocco?
In 2004 DuPont and ERA partners CropLife® and Farm Chemicals International magazines added a global wrinkle to promote international environmental stewardship. The international winners, Ambassadors of Respect, would come to the U.S. in July to collect their awards along with the U.S. regional winners. Then, representatives of the national Environmental Respect Award-winning organization would visit one of the international winners the following spring.
AGRIMATCO’s Moroccan organization got the nod to host the contingent from the U.S. after collecting its Ambassador of Respect award last July. This meant that Wabash Valley representatives Mike Wilson, General Manager Todd Neibel, and Marketing Manager Allen Rusk (and wives Amy and Lori) along with DuPont’s Retail Account Manager Charlie Stuempke packed up and headed out for a week of new adventures in northwestern Africa. My wife Shelley and I rounded out the crew of eight, and taking very good care of us was tour professional Khadija and driver Abdel. Abdel was so skilled a bus driver that Mike wanted him driving fuel trucks for Wabash Valley!
Our trip was a 50/50 blend of agriculture and historic culture, with a constant panorama of rural life tossed in as we made our way by bus from Casablanca to Marrakech to Agadir. In industrial Casablanca, we toured AGRIMATCO’s warehouse and saw photos of their new facilities. We also toured the Hassan II mosque — one of the largest mosques in the world — beautifully crafted with all Moroccan wood, stone, and tile work.
Marrakech in mid-week found us knee-deep in citrus groves, apple orchards, and vegetable crops. When we weren’t sight-seeing and sampling locally grown produce, we were in crowded market places, such as the Djemma el Fna square, teeming with musicians, food vendors, and snake charmers.
Week’s end found us in the coastal city of Agadir, a very modern and host city to many European beach vacationers. It was outside of Agadir where we spent an afternoon at AGRIMATCO’s experimental station, donning gowns, hats, and rubber gloves as we negotiated insect-preventing, screened-in mazes between greenhouse after greenhouse. It was worth it to see the vegetables and technology employed to boost production and get early-to-market prices in Morocco and many parts of Europe.
In one of the greenhouses we watched a technician graft a young tomato plant to a pumpkin’s rootstock, taking advantage of the pumpkin’s more hardy and superior nutrient delivery system. It wasn’t all educational because we sampled melons and peppers fresh off the vines.
The experiment station tour capped a wonderful week in Morocco. All of us were grateful for AGRIMATCO’s time and hospitality and are ready to reciprocate should they want a closer look at Midwestern agriculture in the future.