After a very restful night's sleep, I felt 100% ready to learn! We arrived at one of the Alltech buildings which was about an hour or so outside of Dublin. Alltech is a facility that focuses on helping farmers succeed and produce high yields of crops while still being as environmentally as possible. Every single product in all Alltech buildings is created internally. I do not have much background in agriculture in the United States, but even I could see that this organization, which had headquarters all throughout Ireland, was nothing like what we have in America. Alltech's three "pillars" are research, production, and marketing and all of these branches work together to form a cohesive organization whereas I feel that America is based mostly on competition between several companies. Alltech created something called the ACE principle: "A" stands for animal, which Alltech works to increase the performance of, "C" is for consumer, whom Alltech works to benefit, and "E" is for environment, which Alltech strives to keep safe.
After an introduction on what Alltech is and what the people there do, we were lectured on the European Union. Twenty-seven countries working together to have a free market. I thought this was very rare seeing as how the United States seems to actually be quite divided when it comes to most topics. One topic that did have a good amount of controversy within the EU was genetically modified organisms. It seems like GMO's, though there is a good amount of controversy in the U.S., are needed in order to have higher produce yields and efficiency to feed our growing population. However, in Europe, there are a few countries that completely banned GMO's and most have very strict guidelines as set by the EU. If the EU is confident enough in their crops that they feel GMO's are unnecessary, then they must be doing something right over there (like, maybe not using corn to make everything, like the United States...).
Following these briefings, we then had a short lecture on general animal science in Ireland. I don't know about you, but when I think of Ireland, I think of rolling green hills speckled with sheep. Well, as it turns out, cows, not sheep, are the animals used most for production in Ireland. Cows are definitely their biggest market whether it is for beef or dairy. A whopping 90% of Ireland's beef cattle are exported! That is HUGE. Over half of a farmer's profit comes from dairy cattle. So, next time you think of Ireland, replace the sheep with cows and you'll be significantly more accurate!
Now, it really wouldn't be Ireland if play didn't immediately follow all of this work! Still at the Alltech headquarters, we were taught about the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) and major sports. The one sport that we had the most experience with is hurling: the fastest game on grass. To the American eye, its seems a lot like lacrosse but it also has aspects of baseball, soccer, and football (however hurling was around way before these other sports). After learning about how the game is played, we were lucky enough to see some of it in action. We hopped on the bus and made our way to the Dunboyne GAA. Dunboyne is a small town outside of Dublin, a great place to visit. After getting off the bus we were immediately greeted with, can you guess it? More fantastic Irish hospitality. We were given lunch, hot tea and the company of a few hurling players and coaches. After lunch, they took us outside to the hurling pitch (field) and showed us basic hurling techniques and even gave us the opportunity to try out handling the stick used (a hurley) and try to hit the ball. I don't know how these guys (and for girls, hurling is called camogie) are able to do this as such a fast pace! Their hand-eye coordination was clearly incredible and to be fair, most of them have been playing hurling since they were wee lads. To end our fun with even more Irish hospitality, they invited us to their next hurling game on that Friday! We accepted their invitation with permission from our professor who was nice enough to arrange transportation for us.
Then, we headed back to the hostel for an hour or so to get ready for our "welcome dinner." Now, I absolutely adore the Irish hospitality, but sometimes, it can be from the wrong people. While we were walking to the restaurant, the man who arranged this trip from Global Education Partners (GEP), Craig, was telling us places we should avoid in Dublin, basically, do not go past the hostel and try to stay on the other side of the Liffey. He may have mentioned that if we were to go past the hostel and away from the Liffey and O'Connell Street, we would run into bad things, heroin dealers/users and whatnot. Well, wouldn't you know it, but one of those heroin users happened to be right behind us and felt it necessary to direct us to where we could actually get good heroin and proceeded to tell us that Craig was full of it. At the moment, this was completely terrifying because this strange, smelly man appeared directly behind us without any of us realizing it (beware of pick-pockets!) but after we were safely away and going in the opposite direction of the not-so-great area, we all had a good laugh about it. Poor guy thought he was really helping us out! Dinner was delicious as always, I had a brie and cranberry chutney toasted sandwich. Oh, how I miss the food! After dinner, we parted ways with our professor and Craig and went back to the hostel and out to a lovely, small local pub that was just a stone's throw away from the hostel. Also, on our way back to the hostel, we passed our helpful-if-you're-into-illegal-drugs friend and he seemed to have forgotten us already as he walked right by us.
Below is the link to the pub that we went to that evening. The atmosphere was fantastic with live music and friendly people. The venue is on the small side and from the outside, it looks like it is falling apart, but it was a great taste of local life.