University News

Carlson Named Volunteer of the Year

June 3, 2004

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MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University agriculture professor John Carlson has been named the Volunteer of the year by Agricultural Cooperative Development International (ACDI) and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA) for his agriculture-related volunteer work in Russia over the past several years.

Carlson became involved with volunteer opportunities in Russia in 1994 and has traveled to the former Soviet Union at least one to three times a year since. He works with Russian framers and agricultural institutions in the areas of swine and sheep production, livestock and products marketing and curriculum development. ACDI/VOCA sends nearly 500 volunteers abroad each year.

“Despite some economic gains in recent years, beef and pork production suffers in Russia as herds continue to decline and an expert like Dr. Carlson is a precious commodity in this setting,” said Perry Letson of ACDI/VOCA.

One of CarlsonÂ’s projects over the years has included working with a small swine operation in Udmurtia to develop a remodeling plan that incorporated a new feeding system, pig house insulation and ventilation and a new reproduction facility. These changes, made under his guidance, led to a 75 percent increase in piglet production. Another project included a trip to Sergeiv Posad to help an orphanage establish a swine farm. He worked there with Russian Orthodox priest who was trying not only to feed the orphans, but to teach them work skills as well. Because of the initial success of the swine operation established by Carlson in Sergeiv Posad, a Peace Corps volunteer started another swine farm at an orphanage in another region, modeling it after Carlson's set-up.

CarlsonÂ’s dedication to Russia also led him to learn the language. At one time Russian language classes were offered at WIU and Carlson took advantage of this learning opportunity.

“I really enjoy working in Russia. They are an intelligent and cultured people. They just don't have experience with a free market system. They've never had to create business plans before or start an operation from scratch," Carlson explained. "I keep going back because the people truly want to succeed. I believe that helping Russia feed itself as a nation is a contribution to world peace. As Woodrow Wilson said, 'No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach.' Although a very small contribution, I see sharing my expertise in agriculture to be something I can do to help maintain world peace."

Carlson is currently in Russia through ACDI/VOCA working with a professor at the ag school on teaching environmental standards for a hog facility and is also evaluating the operation of a hog farm.

For more information about Carlson's WIU-Russian connection, or to download photos of his experiences in Russia, visit

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing