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Carlson (left) in a swine building in Russia.
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WIU Professor Lends a Helping Hand to Farms in Russia

September 9, 2005

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MACOMB, IL – Since 1995 Western Illinois University agriculture professor John Carlson has visited Russia 26 times participating in various volunteer efforts with Agricultural Cooperative Development International (ACDI) and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA).

Named the 2004 ACDI/VOCA Volunteer of the Year, Carlson has been participating in the Farmer to Farmer project, which provides short-term assistance to farmers in need. Such assistance ranges from management, business planning and improving production to the processing and marketing of agriculture products.

“The economy is a lot of the reason they are having difficulties solving their agriculture problems,” Carlson explained. “During Communism, farms were under central control and the farmers were always told what to feed their animals and how much to feed them. So after Communism was obliterated, the farmers were lost because they didn’t have the proper training necessary to run a farm on their own and there is no one telling them what to do.”

Carlson continues to volunteer and offer his expertise in Russia because he enjoys helping the people.

“They are really entrancing, friendly, hospitable and intelligent,” he said. “They recognize their problems and want to fix them.”

In Russia he has worked on swine and sheep farms, helping to renovate their current system of marketing and production. He has also lectured at Russian colleges and universities to professors and students who were eager to learn more about American agricultural practices.

For one project Carlson helped an urban farmer renovate his existing swine farm, and the end result was a 15 percent greater piglet production rate. Since piglet sales were the farm’s main source of income, the production increase was significant for the farmer who originally did not have access to the resources he needed to make the farm a success, Carlson said.

In addition to volunteering his time, Carlson has been integral is establishing an exchange program between Western and the Ryazan Agriculture Academy in Russia. Carlson, in cooperation with College of Business and Technology (CBT) Associate Dean Larry Wall, Carol Fimmen of the CBT’s Office of Global Education, The Center for International Studies at WIU and Western’s Center for Management and Professional Development, received a $300,000 Global Business and Learning Partnership Grant through the U.S. Department of State to establish this partnership program with Ryazan.

“It is my hope that the exchange program will help Ryazan faculty improve their effectiveness in the agribusiness field,” he added. “Western professors will travel to Russia to present seminars and workshops, and will be available as consultants, and we will also have faculty and students from Ryazan coming here to study.”

Carlson’s next trip to Russia will also include Western students for a March 2006 Study Abroad experience. For more information contact Carlson at 309/298-1611.

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