CAFNR alum Andrea Woolverton has travelled the globe pursuing both her profession and her passion. Studying abroad while a student quickly attracted her to international interests.
When Woolverton, (BS Agribusiness 02’ and Ph.D. Agribusiness 07’) is not traveling around the world working as a development economist with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, she is planning and leading trips to Cigar Country with her husband.
Woolverton began working as an economist in Rome, Italy, for the Food and Agriculture Organization about a year ago. While there she has designed and managed research projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, including a marketing project in Ghana focusing on helping the chicken industry understand urban consumerdemand and marketing. Currently, Woolverton is investigating the impact of cash flow constraints on small corn producers in Kenya.
She credits her CAFNR Agribusiness background for providing a strong foundation for advising the agri-indusry and policymakers in countries that are working to develop commercial agriculture sectors. Previously, Woolverton worked for the USDA for three years.
Meanwhile, Woolverton’s husband Colin Ganley, Chief Editor USA of Cigar Journal, spent quite a bit of time over the past five years in Central America working with many cigar makers.
“Many people told him, ‘I would love to join you on a trip to meet all the manufacturers and experience the culture in a cigar-making town.’ These comments spawned the first trip, which was mainly made up of friends,” said Woolverton. “They loved the trips so much that we decided to make the trips open to the public. The 2012 trips will mark our third year.”
Cigar country is primarily made up of Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Cuba. The couple leads about three trips each “season,” which is when the tobacco plants are growing. “The farms are green, the weather it great, and it is great time to find out what new things are on the horizon for premium cigars,” said Woolverton.
Woolverton and Ganley spend a great deal of time, sometimes as far as a year in advance, planning their trips, which are all-inclusive once people step off the plane in the Cigar Country. This means the couple takes care of such details as buses, hotels and meetings with premium cigar manufacturers. Recently, they have been planning new experiences for trip members, such as this year’s one-day excursion off of the Nicaragua tour to Honduras to spend some time touring the Alec Bradley Cigars factory with the owner.
“We have also had a lot of fun with rum tastings, mariachis and great dinners to name a few things,” recalled Woolverton.
Each 5 day/4 night trip has an average of 15-20 participants. “The group size is great for camaraderie as well as allowing each person enough space to have his/her own experience,” Woolverton said.
While a student at Mizzou, Woolverton travelled to Northern Ireland, her first trip abroad, the summer after her sophomore year through the CAFNR study aboard program. Shortly after her graduation in 2002, Woolverton joined the Thailand CAFNR study abroad program.
“Later, during my Ph.D. program in CAFNR, I was fortunate to encounter supportive, open-minded faculty as well as a fantastically diverse group of fellow graduate students from around the world. This dynamic made independent international study and travel seem very much within my reach,” said Woolverton.
In the summer of 2005, Woolverton was selected to participate in the ICRPS (International Comparative Rural Policy Studies) Program in Belgium (www.icrps.com), of which Mizzou is a core member. She later went on to complete field research in South Africa for her dissertation through the USDA National Needs Fellowship, the Dorris D. and Christine M. Brown Fellowship and the University of Pretoria.
It was her time completing her graduate research in South Africa that stands out. “For a few months in 2006, I drove a 1990 VW Golf (in banana color with the license number painted on top in large black numbers….read bumblebee) about 2,000 miles through the South African ‘maize belt.’ I knocked on doors from farm to farm conducting interviews with maize farmers. I was asking a price-risk management,” recalled Woolverton.
“In hindsight, I learned about everything from living and farming in post-apartheid South Africa to working with AIDS to how to properly enjoy a braai (South African bbq). One of the farmers was even kind enough to show me the neighborhood white lion. These interviews will forever be imprinted on my mind.”
Woolverton can attest to the statements regarding the benefits of study abroad. “Exposure to many different perspectives and understanding ‘why we think the way we do’ has really helped me to understand just how environment shapes your life as well as to appreciate others’ approaches. For me, I believe this has translated to more empathy, patience and flexibility in my life,” said Woolverton.
The couple are gearing up to lead Cigar Tourism trips in January and February 2012 (spots are still open to those interested). To learn more about Cigar Tourism visit their website: http://cigartourism.com/Cigar_Tourism/HOME.html