Polish Ag Minister visits Penn State's Berkey Creamery

University Park, Pa. -- Visitors to Penn State's Berkey Creamery for a cone of the university's celebrated ice cream June 17 also got a taste of international diplomacy, as representatives of Poland's Ministry of Agriculture came to the University Park campus for a visit that acknowledged Penn State Cooperative Extension's contributions to that nation's agriculture.

Polish Minister of Agriculture Marek Sawicki brought an eight-person delegation to Penn State on the second leg of a U.S. tour to gain a more personal understanding of American agriculture and food systems. The visit to Penn State was also in recognition of the College of Agricultural Sciences' long-standing contributions to Poland's agricultural development through extension.
 
"The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw encouraged the ministry to send a delegation as that nation considers issues relevant to European agriculture trade and development," said H. Louis Moore, professor of agricultural economics. "The U.S. agricultural attaché specifically encouraged Minister Sawicki to include Penn State in his itinerary because of the similarities between Pennsylvania and Poland. This is a great honor, and we're hoping that this will help us continue the seminars, workshops and other things that we do in Poland almost every year."
 
With the dissolution of the Soviet bloc in 1989, Poland and other post-communist nations had to transform their state-run farming collectives to market-driven, capitalist industries. To facilitate the transition, the U.S. Department of Education created the Polish American Extension Project, which replicated the American model of extension as a technology-transfer system for getting scientific agricultural practices and techniques from the laboratory to the average farmer. Penn State Cooperative Extension played a major role in the program, which ran until 1995 and involved 31 land-grant universities. James Dunn, professor of agricultural economics, explained that many in Penn State's extension organization put a lot into the program.
 
"Many extension educators spent six months there, and Lou Moore made many, many trips to Poland to supervise and organize this project," Dunn said. "We have extensive ties in Poland, and a lot of people have gone over there to teach agricultural production and marketing concepts in a market-oriented economy, assist farmers and agribusiness operations with decision-making techniques, establish training programs and teach computer applications.
 
"Penn State provided leadership in farm management and marketing in Poland's provinces," he said. "After the program ended, Penn State continued its relationship via exchange programs and has helped organize annual extension educational conferences."
 
After touring the creamery's manufacturing plant and laboratories -- and having a cone of its world-renowned ice cream -- the Polish delegation visited Penn State's Mushroom Research Facility, a local organic farm and market, local private dairy farms, and university biofuel production facilities. They met with Pennsylvania Executive Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, among others.
 
Minister Sawicki explained that he was interested to learn of the real, practical aspects of working Pennsylvania dairy farms, where he could see animals and the various stages of production. He said he also wanted to talk to producers about how extension functions and how it assists them with education and technology.
 
"I'm hoping to gain some different experiences," he said through an interpreter. "The Polish agricultural system is working pretty well, but any new experiences should be helpful for further change. I'm very interested in the ways that U.S. agriculture is financed and who actually pays for different services -- what farmers are responsible for, what federal and state governments are responsible for, and how the money flows in agriculture not just on a particular farm, but in the whole agricultural system. Due to very dramatic improvements in agricultural commodity processing in the last 10 to 15 years, the Polish processing industry has become one of the best and most modern in Europe."
 
Moore explained that private foundation funding has allowed Penn State Extension to continue working and training in Poland and to expand its reach to farmers in Ukraine, Russia, Serbia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia through regional conferences and in-service training.
 
"Essentially, Polish agriculture has turned around," Moore said. "I'm very proud of what we've accomplished there over the years and I hope we continue to have good relations in the future."

 

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Last Updated November 18, 2010