Wednesday, May 22, 2024

May 21st

 On the morning of May 21st, 2024, we started off our day bright and early once again to leave Sydney and make the long journey home.  After reflecting on the trip, it was interesting to hear different students’ highlights from the trip, as many of us study different parts of the agricultural field and come from a variety of different agricultural backgrounds. The opportunities offered during our Australia trip provided different outlooks on the  industries and agricultural practices that were used there as compared to those used here.

A view from our plane as we descend into Los Angeles on May 21st

When asked about what their highlights were, students had a variety of different answers. Many reflected on their time being “tourists,” visiting the Great Barrier Reef with some being in the ocean for the first time and even spotting a shark, viewing The Sydney Opera House on our lunch cruise then getting to tour the interior, searching for souvenirs for themselves or family, and visiting other popular locations and landmarks like the Three Sisters and Twelve Apostles.

The Sydney skyline, including the Sydney Opera House from our lunch cruise on May 20th

On the agricultural side of things, many students mentioned their visit to Baanga farms to learn about their regenerative practices... with a quick detour to chase down kangaroos and see a koala for the first time. Another stop that many mentioned was Midfield Protein Solutions, offering a unique perspective based on efficiency with an export-focused approach through different practices with beef, lamb and dairy. Many found it very interesting to see the similarities and differences within their perspectives and goals compared to companies in the United States.

Other students mentioned their stop at Pepperton Poll Dorset and White Suffolk Stud farm.  Here they had the opportunity to learn about the owners’ day-to-day responsibilities, how their schedule looks throughout the year, watch their sheep dogs help sort and move lambs, then vaccinate and dock lamb tails. Others simply had the joy to hold and fuss over the lambs.

A perspective from some included the food that was offered during the trip, specifically at Skybury farms in Northern Queensland where the fruits were freshly grown and then sold in their very own focused restaurant.  For a few students, this trip gave them the opportunity to try passionfruit and papaya for the first time!

                We are very thankful and appreciative that we were given the opportunity to go on this trip as we know many people will likely never have the chance to learn what we have and see the beautiful things that Australia has to offer. The wonderful thing about this trip is the diversity of learning areas along the trip that allows everyone, regardless of background or area of study, to come away with a positive and educational experience.

We would like to thank Julie Walker and Rosie Nold for working hard to organize this trip and make it educational and memorable for us all, Ron Paynter for giving his time to guide us around the country, and Dean Cassady for his generous support of international agricultural education at SDSU.

A photo taken in Sydney on our last evening in Australia after our farewell dinner with our fellow students, instructors, and our tour guide Ron. 


Monday, May 20, 2024

May 20th

A view inside the Sydney Produce Market!

 We started our morning bright and early, arriving at the Sydney Markets at 6am. There are numerous sectors of Sydney Markets: Sydney Growers Market, Sydney Produce Market, and Sydney Flower Market. Through the Grower Market growers (farmers) have their own spaces dedicated to their produce that they grow. You must get a “buyers pass” to be able to purchase anything at the Sydney Markets. You have to buy a “box” of whatever goods you would like. All the markets are open Monday through Friday. The markets open at 1am, when sellers start to set up, buyers start purchasing at 3am and by 8am everyone is ready to go home! In the Produce Market, the “middle men” are the sellers, they do not grow the produce and fruit, just specifically sell. Buyers typically are businesses, including restaurants, cafes and floral shops. The Floral Market was jam packed of flowers and greenery with amazing smells! Wednesday and Fridays are the busiest days for the flowers, because shops are buying for weddings and events that take place on the weekends.

Grape pickers can make $28/hour (AU) minimum, good pickers can even make $50/hour. A husband and wife can make around $1,000 a day if the weather is hot and they pick a lot of grapes. 


Bananas at the market are kept separate. They are sent into a cooler where the temperature is changed, allowing them to ripen in around 3 days. 

Sydney Flower Market was full of fresh cut flowers and greenery, many buyers were picking the perfect looking flowers!

After a quick stop at a cafe for breakfast we headed back into Sydney to meet with Meat and Livestock Australia. During our time with them we discussed different aspects of the Australian red meat industry, mainly focusing on production numbers and comparing their operations to our own. Australia only sends 42% of their cattle to a feedlot since the majority is grass fed whereas the USA sends 95% to a feedlot. Australia farms also are much larger in scale compared to farms in the USA. In Australia the average farm size is 7,435 to 37,263 acres depending on farm type. In the USA the average farm size is 463 acres. Another major difference is that Australia raises and exports more sheep than the USA. Overall, Australia and the USA have markets that are compatible with each other, and we compete very little.

Views of downtown Sydney, Sydney Opera House, and the Sydney Harbor Bridge from our harbor cruise! 

Cruising on the Sydney Harbor was truly a magical way to explore and enjoy the stunning views of the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge. As we glided along the sparkling waters over our lunch, we were amazed by the historical significance and natural beauty of this harbor. Sydney Harbor is a natural harbor and one of the largest in the world. It covers an area of approximately 55 square kilometers and has over 240 kilometers of shoreline. The harbor is also home to several islands, including the famous UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, Cockatoo Island. Additionally, with more than 11,000 vessels visiting the harbor each year, it's a bustling maritime hub offering endless opportunities for sightseeing, dining, and relaxation.

The entire SDSU tour group outside of the Sydney Opera House.

A view from inside the Joan Sutherland Theatre. 

We toured the Sydney Opera House learning about the construction and history of the building. It took 16 years to build, costing 108 million dollars (AU) and eventually opening in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II. The building was constructed in three stages with free standing sails and over 22,000 pounds of concrete. Two materials were imported for the building which were glass and 1,056,006 tiles. The structure of the building is also designed to expand during the heat of summer and contract during cooler temperatures. There are 5 theaters total and we were able to view the playhouse and the Joan Sutherland Theatre.  The playhouse is the smallest theatre, seating 400 people and because it is so small, has some of the most engaging performances. The Joan Sutherland theatre is the second largest in the building, named after someone who is thought to be the best opera singer of the 20th century. This theatre contains a large elevator for stage equipment and is used for opera and ballet.  


We rounded out our night with our farewell dinner at a harborside restaurant a few blocks away from our hotel. After a phenomenal dinner, we said our goodbyes to Ron, our tour guide for the entire trip.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Today was our first day in Sydney. We started the morning off traveling through the Great Dividing Range into the Blue Mountains National Park, some 3000 feet above sea level. While on the bus ride today, Ron provided us with some background information on the history of convicts being brought to Australia from Great Britain after the Revolutionary War. They settled in Sydney and used the skills of the soldiers and convicts to build up the city. As they moved further west, they came to an abrupt stop when they hit the intricate Great Dividing Range, we would soon find out why that was. It would take them 60 years to find a path through the mountain range to explore the rest of the country.

Upon arrival at Scenic World, we were greeted by a brisk 50 degree morning. There were many attractions that the group saw at Scenic World. We rode down the world’s steepest railway which had a 206 meter vertical drop of 52 degrees. Once at the bottom we were able to overlook the Jameson Valley and the Three Sisters.

Original scenic railway going down the Blue Mountains

Students riding the steepest inline railway in the world

The view deeper into the valley

We were able to walk around on the scenic trails through the park and see the natural vegetation. On the trail we saw the Katoomba Coal Mine that was built in 1878.


Katoomba coal mine entrance

A majestic waterfall found by some students

The view from atop of the Three Sisters

After walking the trails, we got to ride back up to the top in the southern hemisphere’s steepest aerial cable car. Students were able to go in multiple directions on the various hiking trails that were offered and could view the mountains from angles at the top and bottom of the mountain. Some took in the views from atop the Three Sisters, while others hiked lower into the valley. We were able to view the mountains and valley from a unique angle in a skyway car that had a glass floor. 

Overlooking the Jamison Valley from the cable car

Our second stop for the day was Featherdale Wildlife Park. This park has over 2,000 Australian native animals including over 60 threatened species. Students got to explore the park and all it had to offer on their own. Some students took advantage of the photo service with some of the parks koalas.

Park keeper feeding penguins at Featherdale Wildlife Park

Students were able to get up close with other wildlife such as kangaroos and wallabies to pet and feed them. Some other interesting animals that were seen while there included dingos, echidnas, wombats, macaws, penguins, and many others.

Students petting kangaroos at Featherdale Wildlife Park

Students got the chance to take photos with koalas
While students had some free time at the hotel, they found many different shops and cuisines. The Great Southern Hotel is in the center of Sydney’s China Town District. Many students explored around to many of the markets and food stops.


Dylan Brandt and Hayley Daubert

Saturday, May 18, 2024

May 18th


One of the crocs living in the lagoon.

Today was our last day in Cairns before we complete our trip in Sydney. We traveled north along the coast to Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, a saltwater crocodile farm and wildlife preserve. The tour started at the portion of the park dedicated to the commercial crocodile farm. Hartley's is the only commercial crocodile farm in Australia that allows the public onto the premises, so we were lucky to see this portion of the operation. The hunting of wild crocs for skins was banned in 1974, which prompted the crocodile farming industry in Australia. Crocs are farmed mainly for their leather, but also for their meat, bones that can be turned into fertilizer, and fat which is used in cosmetics.

One of the crocs in the large enclosure basking in the sun.

Some of the younger crocs enjoying a dip in the water.

Production starts when they gather the eggs. Hartley's is a closed farm, meaning they only collect eggs from the breeding pens on farm, while open farms gather the eggs from the wild. These eggs are then incubated in the nursery. Crocodiles are unique in that temperature determines gender. A temperature of 90.5° F results in an equal hatching of males and females, cooler temperatures result in more females, hotter temperatures result in more males. The reason the farm incubates the eggs rather than letting them hatch in the wild is the low survival rate of wild hatchings. In fact, only 1% of wild born crocodiles make it to sexual maturity at age 12-14. Once the eggs hatch, the hatchlings are raised in a dark, climate-controlled nursery to decrease the stress on the babies. As they age, they are moved outdoors into tanks that have both dry areas for basking and little ponds of water. These tanks can be opened to allow for the young crocs to acclimate to changing weather and sounds but can be closed if they become stressed. Once they graduate out of the tanks, they are moved to large outdoor pens that can house up to 90 crocs depending on size and age. Pen requirements must allow the crocs to have access to both waters deep enough to submerge and dry sun basking areas. They also must have enough room to turn around. In the pens we saw there were between 20-45 crocs.

An example of a crocodile skin that Hartley’s produces, with a pen of nearly market ready crocs in the background.

When the crocs reach 2-3 years of age, they are approximately 4.5-6.0 feet in length. This is the ideal market size for the harvest of leather. This species of saltwater croc is used for leather production because they have less armor, which means that more of the leather can be used for higher end products such as handbags. The armored tail and back are more often used in belts. While most of the crocs are used for leather production, they do set aside several females for the breeding pens. The females and males, reach sexual maturity between 12 and 14 years of age. In the wild crocs will live between 60 and 90 years, but it is unknown how old they get in captivity because crocodiles have no physiological age indicators.
Feeding one of the crocodiles in the lagoon a bit of chicken from the boat. Fun fact: Crocodiles can push up to 2/3rds of their body out of the water straight into the air going after prey.

One of the male Cassowaries that the students had the opportunity to feed. This one was named Adam, and he is at least 55 years old.

After our tour of the commercial side of the operation, we walked into the adventure side of the park where we started with a Cassowary feeding. The Cassowaries we saw were the Southern Cassowary, also known as the Wattled Cassowary. They are the only species found in Australia, and the other two species are found in Papua, New Guinea. They are flightless birds and are in the same family as Ostriches, Emus, and Kiwis. They are the second largest bird in terms of weight, and third in terms of height. They are important to the rainforests of Australia because they are a keystone species. Of the four cassowaries we saw, only one was raised in captivity, and the others were rehomed after car strike. One of the males is at least 55 years old. Cassowaries are often known as most dangerous birds on the planet because they have large toe claws and when they deliver a kick they can rip open their attacker. After the talk, students had the opportunity to feed the birds their fruit.

A koala taking a nap in a tree.

Following the Cassowary feeding students had the opportunity to wander the park and see the other animals. There was Koalas, Wombats, Kangaroos, Emus, Crocs, Alligators, Rainforest birds, and Turtles to name a few. Some of the students had a chance to feed the Kangaroos and Wallabies by hand in their enclosure. It was a great opportunity to see some of the animals we had not yet seen in the wild, and see others at a much closer distance.

Before a boat tour of the lagoon, we all gathered together to celebrate Kalli’s birthday with a delicious chocolate cake. We then divided into two groups to go out onto the manmade lagoon in two boats. This lagoon had 20 females and ten male crocodiles that are very territorial. Since crocs are very territorial the guide was able to tell which croc it was more by what area it was in rather than by looks. Many of these crocs had been rehomed to the lagoon due to violent behaviors or close proximity to humans. The largest male is thought have killed 30 cattle in the mid 1970’s which was why he was rehomed. This is also dominant croc in the lagoon.

From Hartley’s we drove 45 minutes back to Cairns where we went through the airport, grabbed lunch, and got on our approximately 3 hour flight to Sydney. We flew along the coast before heading more inland. When we arrived in Sydney it was raining hard. From the airport we made it to our hotel, and then in groups went off to dinner somewhere downtown.

Friday, May 17, 2024

May 17th


Students are overjoyed to see the Great Barrier Reef on their way out to the island!

Today students had the opportunity to visit one of the biggest tourist destinations in Australia, The Great Barrier Reef. Home to a variety of different sea creatures, it stretches 1500 miles along the Northeastern coast of Australia. Many think this is one continuous reef, however, there are 2900 individual reefs. There are three main things the reef needs to grow: warm water, sunlight, and low nutrients. Along with this, the reef is only 20-30 meters deep which allowed the Great Barrier Reef to form. Even though this is a tourist attraction, there is no fishing or collecting allowed. They do allow other water activities such as scuba diving, and snorkeling, which do not disturb the reef.

Michaelmas Cay is a sandy beach where students enjoyed snorkeling in part of the Great Barrier Reef!

The island that we visited was called the Michaelmas Cay. These sand cays are formed by fragments of plants and animals’ skeletons. For vegetation to get on the new sand cay, birds bring seeds and fertilizer which will then germinate. The seeds take root and help stabilize the shifting sand to create a permanent home for sea life and birds.

The view of the ocean from Michaelmas Cay!

The reef is made up of corals, plants, and fish. The corals are in the same family as the jellyfish but have a solid skeleton. There are about 400 different species of coral. During the day, most corals pull themselves into their skeleton. Corals that have color such as yellow, orange, and brown are alive, whereas the white or colorless ones are dead. Of where we visited today, about five percent of the coral was bleached. There are not many plants within the reef we visited, but they are very important in the food web. Microscopic plants in the reef produce sugars by photosynthesis. The corals will absorb this sugar as 90% of their food. Lastly, the reef is home to over 1500 types of fish that carry out their own specific jobs to maintain the reef’s health.

Today’s ship was named Ocean Spirit!

One of the 1500 species of fish found within the reef!

During our time on the reef, students got the chance to listen to a marine biologist speak about the different types of coral and fish within the reef, went snorkeling and enjoyed a semi submarine tour. After a two-hour cruise on Ocean Spirit, they arrived on Michaelmas Cay. Here they spent about four hours enjoying the different shapes, sizes, and colors of coral within the reef. Students got to see a variety of fish such as the parrot fish, stingray, a baby shark, starfish, and much more.

Students listen to a Marine Biologist while viewing the Great Barrier Reef from the Semi Submarine!

The Semi Submarine where students viewed the Great Barrier Reef from below!

The view of the Great Barrier Reef from the Semi Submarine!

Snapshots of the Great Barrier Reef while students were snorkeling.


Briana Maus and Kaden Nelson

Thursday, May 16, 2024

May 16th

Some of the girls stopped for a photo overlooking the crater.

 From the Land Down Under,

This morning was yet another early breakfast at Discovery Park Mount Surprise. We departed Mount Surprise to venture out and see the Crater in Mount Hypipamee National Park. We took a brisk stroll along crater track that ended with us at the viewing platform overlooking the crater. From where we were to the bottom of the lake was 130 Meters. The rainforest had a large variety of trees and a tropical environment much different from South Dakota.

A long way down to the bottom of the crater! 

After we left the crater, we made our journey to the Curtain Fig Tree at Yungaburra. This tree is different since it grew attached to a tree which then fell against a different tree and as the fig tree developed, and the roots made a curtain down to the ground. We also discovered the stinging tree around the fig tree, which is a poisonous tree that sticks into you once you touch it causing immediate irritation and in severe cases even death.  This fig tree is now considered the “Tableland’s most famous tree” and is one of the most frequently visited sites within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

The Curtain Fig Tree was a sight to behold.
The dangerous stinging tree.

On our next tourist stop not too far down the road, we stopped at Millaa Millaa Waterfall. This scenic view provided us with a great photo opportunity which we didn’t hesitate to take advantage of. The mist from the waterfall added to the majestic viewing experience.  

The group got a photo during our stop at the Millaa Millaa Waterfall.

The Millaa Millaa Waterfall flowing over the rocks down to the pool below.
Our final visit of the day was to Mungalli Creek Dairy, a tropical dairy focusing on biodynamic and organic production. Michelle and Rob started the operation 35 years ago in 1989 and have been expanding ever since. They make all their products themselves, such as, milk, yogurt, cheeses, and ice cream. The breeds of dairy cattle they milk include Jersey, Aussie Red, and Brown Swiss on a rotationally grazed operation. They process milk from 8 different dairy farms, and manage 3 of them. They are extremely focused on value added products in an effort to make more money compared to what they could make selling to local milk plants. They recently expanded into the ice cream business and it has instantly become their most in-demand product line. To help with the avoidance of contamination on the farm and between products, they make all their bottles for milk on their home operation. The highest demand for milk comes in the winter, when production is the lowest, so they try and take advantage of the months leading up to it when they have a surplus in milk to make cheese. They use humus as a fertilizer for their pastures seeing as they cannot add conventional products (e.g. fertilizers) on their pastures. They use a golf ball size amount per acre mixed with water and applied two times a year to stimulate biology and organic matter in the soil. Rob claims this results in the same amount and sometimes even better production from the pastures compared to conventional fertilizers. They also add crushed quartzite crystals at the amount of one gram per acre to their pastures. Their reasoning behind this is for better aeration and it allows the plants to stand straighter resulting in them getting more sunlight (his words not ours).  

At Mungalli Creek Dairy, we were welcomed with lunch and were able to celebrate Kenzie’s birthday. We started our meal with an in-depth cheese board tasting, yum! After the meal we were able to enjoy some organic, lactose free, unhomogenized, gluten free ice cream which came in a variety of flavors. They also offered us a variety of cheesecakes to choose from.

Tasty cheese board.

Bottle processing that is part of Mungalli Dairy’s vertical integration efforts.

After the dairy, we traveled back to Cairns ending our long day of travel allowing us to explore the local shops and look for some good souvenirs to bring back to the states.

G’Day and til next time, 

Jack Donnelly and Anna Moser




May 21st

  On the morning of May 21 st , 2024, we started off our day bright and early once again to leave Sydney and make the long journey home.   A...