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|12-07-02: Ukrainian learns how to farm
the Mercer County way
|By NANCY ALLEN
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
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
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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