Four researchers from the Ukraine are learning first-hand about American agriculture systems from faculty at Ohio State. Through the USDA’s Agricultural Economics Faculty Exchange Program (FEP), which is administered through the organization’s Foreign Agricultural Service, the researchers – Nataliia Gerasymenko, Oksana Makarchuk, Inna Mazii, and Olha Ostroverkh – are spending four months in the U.S. working with faculty and students from Ohio State’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE) to gain an in-depth understanding of U.S. food and agricultural economic systems. AEDE’s professor Stan Thompson and professor emeritus Allan Lines serve as co-directors of the project for Ohio State.
Through a competitive process focused on U.S. land-grant universities, Ohio State's Office of International Programs in Agriculture was awarded funding from the USDA to host the four researchers. The goal of the FEP program is to bring university instructors of agricultural economics and agribusiness management from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to the U.S. to upgrade their technical subject knowledge, improve their teaching skills, and develop course material for use at their home institutions. Based on FEP guidelines, participants in the program spend 85 to 90 percent of their time observing classes and engaging with faculty on campus and 10 to 15 percent of their time on field trips, in seminars or workshops, and at Extension offices to learn from first-hand engagement in the field.
The four Ukrainian researchers hail from several institutions in the Ukraine: the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of the Ukraine; Sumy National Agrarian University; and Kharkiv Petro Vasylenko National Technical University of Agriculture.
More than halfway through, the participants have only good things to say about the experience thus far: “Through participation in this program I have developed a new understanding of the different approaches to teaching agriculture in a university. I’ve been exposed to so many new ideas and opportunities,” noted Oksana Makarchuk.
“Participation in the FEP program has allowed me to become acquainted with the American style of teaching agriculture. For me, our field trips have been very beneficial to learn firsthand. Our classes and field trips complement each other and as a result we have new professional skills and methods of teaching,” continued Inna Mazii.
While at Ohio State, the researchers hope to further develop their knowledge of topics such as agrarian policy, agri-insurance, agri-marketing, economic analysis, food safety, food security, statistics, and sustainability. The participants are attending classes such as AEDE’s principles of agribusiness management, marketing, and finance. They are also observing AEDE’s courses in farm management, human resources, and benefit-cost analysis.
The researchers have found the wide array of resources and networks available to AEDE’s faculty and students to be extremely beneficial. Olha Ostroverkh notes, “Ohio State students often have the opportunity to engage with guest speakers in their classes, to discuss practical issues with them and ask questions. This is new to me and a very valuable part of the classroom experience.”
Additionally, AEDE faculty have lined up a great selection of site visits for the researchers, both in Ohio and throughout the country. In addition to visiting local farms and agribusinesses, the participants attended the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) annual meeting in Washington D.C. and the Farm Science Review near London, Ohio. They have also visited the Chicago Board of Trade and will soon depart on a two-week trip to the Southwestern United States to visit universities and agribusinesses in the region.
To Nataliia Gerasymenko these field trips have proved to be a highly successful component of the program: “A great part of our experience has been the farm and agribusiness visits. We recently stayed for several days on a farm in Ohio. We visited the local farmers market, harvested soybeans, learned about soybean and corn production from the farmers, and we visited a local seed company.”
The participants will return to the Ukraine in early December, bringing with them a wealth of new knowledge and ideas.
October 17, 2013