Leonardo Huvado, 22, grew up on a small farm near Medellin, Columbia.
With his background near a city of 2.7 million people near the Andes mountains, life in rural Minnesota is a huge change.
“My father is a teacher,” said Huvado last week. “All his life he has liked animals, so we’ve lived on a small farm of one acre. We raise chicken, not for our (livelihoods), but to produce some money.”
“I am training to be an agricultural engineer. I found this opportunity in Minnesota, and so I came.”
While attending college in Costa Rica, Huvado learned last January of the MAST International program offered through the University of Minnesota.
“We need to show many more papers to travel by ourselves,” he said. “If I had tried to come here without help from the university, it wouldn’t be possible.”
MAST International allows a year of study and work in an actual Minnesota business. Over 6000 trainees from more than 65 countries have participated in the MAST International program.
Huvado arrived on Marcy 28, where he saw snow for the first time when his plane landed in Wisconsin.
Since then he has been working along with a Russian ag student on a hog farm near Morgan.
What has Huvado learned so far?
“I didn’t work with pigs before, I worked in a laboratory,” he laughed.
How does ag in the United States compare to ag in Columbia?
“Here it’s too much,” Huvado laughed. “More technology, more sophisticated. Farmers have more support from the government, and more choice.”
Huvado said in Columbia, “the small farmers are disappearing. One or two companies produce all the food.”
Nevertheless, “I want to go back to Columbia and start my own business. I want to do something for myself, working with my family.”
Huvado said he hopes his plans for the nearer future include a longer stay in Minnesota.
“I hope to find a good contact at the University of Minnesota, and enter the master degree program.”
Huvado said he hasn’t had much chance to explore Minnesota since he arrived, but he’s hoping for opportunities.
“When somebody comes to the U.S. to work, we don’t want people to treat us like ‘foreigners’” he said. “Maybe it’s better to get to know us.”