I was approached late last fall by an international NGO called CNFA (formerly the Citizens Action Network for Foreign Affairs) to participate in a project in the Republic of Belarus, sponsored by USAID (United States Agency for International Development). The goal of the project was to provide context to the Belarusians trying to develop their organic agriculture sector.
My job was to visit various ministries and universities and present a series of lectures outlining the history, development and future of the organic food industry in the USA so that they would have some milestones to follow as they set up their own system. I was also to provide some strategic recommendations based on my experiences while there, the people I met and the facilities I visited.
At first I did not think I would be able to go, given all the other projects I have going on professionally and personally. I work full time in agricultural development in Jefferson County WV, and I am in graduate school nights and weekends pursuing an MS in Environmental Communications. This is in addition to the necessary renovations of my house and development of my gardens (something that will not be a surprise to those who know me well, and read some of my other blogs).
However, thanks to the support of the Jefferson County Development Authority (JCDA), my boss, John Reisenweber, and the chair of the JCDA Ag Committee, Howard Mills, I was able to find time to make the trip.
I had not been on such a trip since USAID-VOCA sponsored my three week lecture tour of the Czech Republic back in 1995 (17 years ago!) and I was full of both excitement and trepidation as the date approached. So...
Here is a record of the trip, compiled upon my return (they kept me way too busy while I was there to do more than snap some pictures and jot down some notes). Welcome to my record of a trip to the Republic of Belarus, February 14-27, 2013 (with stops and starts all along the way!)
(Note: the banner pictured to the left was hanging in the main atrium of the Grodno Agrarian University, where I gave my final lecture of the tour. I have no idea what it actually says!)