Learning about Ag from Half a World Away

Larry Sailer is one of 20 Iowa farmers who are traveling through the Ukraine to get a new perspective on agriculture

For two weeks, I’m joining a group of 20 Iowa Farm Bureau and staff members touring throughout the Ukraine and Romania to learn about farming practices underway since the breakup of the Soviet Union.  We left June 22 for the Black Sea region, which is expected to become a top competitor for Iowa crop exports in coming years.

The Ukraine, known as the Breadbasket of Europe, has rich, black dirt similar to what we see in Iowa.  The biggest difference is there is three times as much soil here!  Imagine rich, Iowa farm ground that is the size of Texas.  I’m convinced there is a huge amount of ground in this region with a huge potential to raise more food than is currently being produced.  Much of this farmland has been sitting idle, waiting for the proper political climate and for the right farmers with the know-how to get ‘er done.

The corn on this farm in Ukraine is looking good. It’s much taller than mine at home in Iowa!

It needs farmers like Iowa Farm Bureau member Jeff Rechkemmer, who’s from Oelwein in Northeast Iowa but has farmed in Ukraine about a decade.  Jeff says there are many similarities between farming in Iowa and Ukraine.  Like in Iowa, his most profitable Ukrainian crops are corn and soybeans.  Most of the tractors on his Ukrainian farm are John Deere models that were made in Waterloo.

Our Farm Bureau group came with questions about how this region can compete with Iowa for export markets.  We wondered if farmers here can produce food as inexpensively as we can.  Our questions include:  What are their yields?  What are their input costs?  Are they sustainable?  Is their infrastructure adequate?  Can they get the product out of their country at a price that competes with ours?  What is the quality of their grain?  What crops do they grow?

So many questions!  Honestly, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information we’ve already gathered.  It’s been a great learning experience so far, but we’re only half done.  There’s a lot more to look forward to seeing and doing here!

We plan to return home on Friday, and then it will take a little time to organize all of my photos and information.  But it’s a job that I’m looking forward to!  In the coming weeks, I will use blog articles and presentations to share the vast amounts of information to which I’ve been exposed.  I hope you’ll turn to TheFieldPosition.com on Tuesdays for my guest blog posts.  Please also contact me if you know of a group that would be interested in hearing my presentation.

In the meantime, you can learn more about our Ukrainian adventures by reading these “Farm Fresh” blog posts by Dirck Steimel, editor of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman: