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12-07-02: Ukrainian learns how to farm the Mercer County way
The Daily Standard
    When farmer Olksandr Kvitchatiy returns home to Ukraine today, he will take back with him a wealth of agricultural information he learned during the last month while visiting farms in Mercer County.
    Kvitchatiy, 38, has been staying with Aloys and Cleopha Link in Fort Recovery during his visit to the United States. He is from a small village near the city of Poltava in Ukraine, which has a population of roughly 250,000.
    Ukraine, which was part of the former communist Soviet Union before its collapse, was called the "breadbasket" of the Soviet Union due to its fertile black soil and mild climate. During that time, all businesses, land and real estate were government owned.
    After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine became a separate country apart from Russia, and Kvitchatiy became a small independent farmer. Kvitchatiy said he wanted to visit Mercer County because he has a lot to learn about farming to become successful in his country's new fledgling market.
    Kvitchatiy's trip was arranged through the International Visitors Council (IVC) Inc. in Columbus, a nonprofit organization that facilitates economic, governmental, educational and cultural relationships between central Ohio and the rest of the world. IVC's Community Connections Program is funded through the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which paid for Kvitchatiy's trip.
    An IVS official said owning farmland is the last piece of the puzzle in terms of privatization for Ukranian farmers.
    "They are still ironing out all the details in terms of individuals buying farmland in the Ukraine," said Steve Baker of IVS. "They could not own any land or property under Soviet rule. It was all state property. They are moving in the direction of owning the land they farm."
    Baker said most Ukranian farmers are working with equipment that is 30 to 40 years behind in technology compared with the United States. Lack of capital remains the biggest obstacle to farmers there, he said.
    During Kvitchatiy's stay, he toured and worked at hog, poultry and dairy facilities, spent time with a local veterinarian on dairy and hog farm calls, talked with local agricultural officials about marketing and environmental issues, learned about feed formulas and rations and talked with a local banker about agricultural financing. He even went to the Chicago Board of Trade where he learned about the commodities exchange and futures contracts. On Thursday, he sat in on FFA classes at Fort Recovery High School.
    He also spent time at contract hog and poultry operations affiliated with Cooper Farms in Fort Recovery. Cooper Farms General Manager Carl Link said the IVC contacted him at Cooper Farms to schedule Kvitchatiy's visits throughout the county. Carl Link is the son of Kvitchatiy's host family, Aloys and Cleopha Link.
    Kvitchatiy told The Daily Standard he has been farming for 11 years and is an agronomist by trade. For 10 years, he worked strictly as an agronomist on a huge collective farm in Ukraine that employed 500 people and raised thousands of head of livestock. His job was managing the crops and all kinds of grains and forage for the animals.
    Kvitchatiy now owns a 320-acre farm where he grows wheat, sugar beets, barley, corn and soybeans. He also has about 30 hogs, a few cattle and some poultry.
    He has a wife, Valentina, and three sons, Dmitri, 4, Alex, 12 and Taras, 14. The oldest helps around the farm fixing masonry and working the fields.
    "The oldest I am sure he will farm (when he grows up). The middle one, I am not sure," Kvitchatiy said laughing. "In our country everything has changed ... In America I have excellent example for my vision and my future development of my animals and farm."
  Kvitchatiy said he was particularly interested in learning about hog nurseries, noting that his time spent at local hog operations was very valuable.
    The Ukranian said upon his return home, he plans to change how he feeds his animals and may sell off his cows. He also plans to increase the amount of soybeans he plants and get out of the sugar beet business. The price for soybeans in his country is good, and sugar beets can be tricky to raise, he said.
    He also will meet with other Ukranian farmers and share with them the knowledge he has gained from Mercer County.
    Cleopha Link said she and her family have enjoyed having Kvitchatiy, who they called Alex, say with them.
    "We hope he learned a lot while he was here," Cleopha Link said. "We have really enjoyed having him stay with us."


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