TIES Argentina

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is developing an innovative program in immersive experiential learning known as Thematic Interdisciplinary Experiential Semester (TIES). The program seeks to provide participants with a truly transformative experience in a rigorous, challenging, interdisciplinary, project-based program designed to examine a central theme from a variety of scientific, cultural, economic and political perspectives. TIES Argentina is a pilot program launched in Spring 2011 involving a collaborative interdisciplinary effort by faculty in biology, economics, geology and Latin American studies focusing on the natural and cultural setting of Mendoza, Argentina. This pilot program involves a vibrant living-learning community of 17 students selected from across disciplines and across age groups. Courses are designed in 3.5 week concentrated blocks for project-based inquiry, with dedicated overlap between the blocks to provide interdisciplinary linkages.
This blog will chronicle the adventures, learning experiences and trials and tribulations of the participants in TIES Argentina. We will try to update on a weekly basis, and welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Economics of Mendoza

The TIES group has been working on the last unit of economics section with Dr. Avin for the last week and a half. The first field trip we took during this unit was a wine tour to local bodegas with a specific purpose.  The objective was to visit two wineries, one a very small,  family-run winery and the other a large industrial winery, and make comparisons between the two.
We first began our field trip at the small family winery, Familia Cassone.  The winery is set on the outskirts of the city of Maipu.  After we traveled through the city, we were struck by the tranquility and beauty of the Cassone bodega. The rows of dark green grape plants set against the backdrop of the mountains forced many of us to reach for our cameras.
View of the Frontal Cordillera from the Familia Cassone vineyard

 Here they not only had the grape plants, but also the production equipment required for production of wine, from grape to bottle.  This was interesting because we observed the whole process from start to finish.  During our tour we were treated with a demonstration of the winery’s new labeling machine. After the tour, we had tasting that included a detailed description of economics of family-run wineries by one of the owners, Frederico Cassone.  We then had an opportunity to purchase souvenirs from the winery, after which  we thanked our hosts and hurried off to visit the much-anticipated Norton winery.
Frederico Cassone discusses the economics of family-run wineries

When we arrived at Norton we were struck by the contrast. At Norton, instead of the being greeted by one of the co-owners we were greeted by a security guard. Where Familia Cassone blended in with the surrounding countryside, Norton stood out with its billboard-sized sign and security hut. We were ushered into a fancy room where Walter Pavon greeted us. Walter is an economist with Bodegas Argentinas, a consortium of wineries throughout western Argentina.

Waler Pavon of the Bodegas de Argentina describes the wine economy of Mendoza

After Walter’s presentation on the economics of the wine industry, we were ushered outside for a delicious lunch of roast beef and potatoes and, of course, Norton wine. After our lunch we were guided on a tour of Norton, during which we saw many different stages of production. Many students were struck by the massive scale of wine production. During the tour we were able to taste the wine from each stage of production. After the tour, the TIES group pillaged the gift shop and boarded the bus, tummies filled with delicious food and wine.

Brandon testing Norton Reserva from the barrel

The other field trip we went on was right across town at the Mercado Cooperativo de Guaymallen. This is a massive agricultural cooperative responsible for the distribution of fruit and vegetables throughout western Argentina.  The secretary and the vice president of the co-op showed us around the different areas of the operation.  Following our tour,  we interviewed different sellers about the market, the economics of the system, their role as sellers, and other aspects of the cooperative.   After the interviews we used our free time to roam about the co-op.  This gave us a good amount of time to explore and learn more about the co-op and buy from local vendors. We bought fresh fruits, vegetables, empanadas and sweets.

Brandon, Joe and Alicia discussing the economy of fruits and vegetables at
Mercado Cooperativo de Guaymallen
   At this point, we are finishing a 4-day break and are ready to start the final unit of history and culture. There is an interesting mood amongst the TIES members as our departure for home quickly approaches. In 14 days we will be coming home.


No comments:

Post a Comment