By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times
A delegation of farmers from Georgia visited Cullman this week as part of a month-long agricultural program designed to help implement local farming practices in places where they’re needed.
But don’t get smug. Alabama farmers might have a thing or two to teach (and learn) from our neighbors to the immediate east, but this week’s local visitors aren’t farmers from the Peach State — rather, they’re from the former Soviet state.
The delegation of farmers, from the Republic of Georgia, stopped in Cullman Tuesday and Wednesday as part of a two-week learning venture sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’ Cochran Fellowship program and hosted by Auburn University.
During their stay, the eight Georgian farmers are touring several Alabama farms, and are interacting directly with local fruit and vegetable growers to garner new information about how to more efficiently grow and rotate similar produce in their home country.
Despite the climatological, economic and cultural differences between Alabama and the Republic of Georgia — located on Russia’s southern border between the Black and Caspian Seas — there are plenty of similarities, said USDA representative and native Georgian Demna Dzirkvadze.
“We actually have comparable mechanization, and we grow some of the things farmers here grow,” said Dzirkvadze. “But one of the things we would like to learn and apply is how to increase productivity. We have low productivity; a low yield per hectare. We want to learn a little technologically, just to help increase productivity and improve our yield.”
Dzirkvadze accompanied and helped overcome the language barrier for eight Georgian delegates, stopping at the North Alabama Horticulture Research Center in Cullman as part of an ambitious touring itinerary that will have covered more that 2,000 miles throughout Alabama.
Auburn entomologist and extension service coordinator Ayanava Majumdar, Ph.D., said the Alabama Extension service secured the cross-cultural training by qualifying for the federally-funded Cochran Fellowship through a competitive process.
“This was done through a process where we had to compete and demonstrate how we would be accomplishing this training,” he said. “It is really a wonderful thing. This group will see a lot in the short time that they’re here; they will learn about agritourism, sustainability and various types of agricultural research, in addition to some pretty innovative technologies we are using right here in Alabama.”
The goal of the Cochran Fellowship program is to train agricultural representatives from middle-income and emerging-market countries, and to establish stronger ties of communication between agricultural leaders in the U.S. and emerging democracies. The program engages trainees from both the private and public sectors.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.