“Everything is so green,” Louiza Chekmam quietly murmured in amazement as the van she was riding in pulled into Peach Tree Farms. “Back home, our summers are dry and everything turns yellow and brown. This is just beautiful.”
The visit to the family-operated farm outside of Boonville was one of many stops Louiza, Souad Mammou and Sihem Khiri toured during a recent United States Department of Agriculture Cochran Fellowship Program, organized by the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. The Algerian women came to MU to learn about agricultural markets in the United States to help improve operations in their home country.
“We are just amazed by the level of production by the U.S. farms,” says Louiza, an agricultural engineer with the Algerian Ministry of Agriculture.
The Cochran Fellowship is one of many programs managed by CAFNR International Programs, which facilitates global engagement for faculty and students. These programs provide participants from middle-income countries, emerging markets and emerging democracies with high-quality training to improve their local agricultural systems.
Since its inception in 1984, the Cochran Fellowship Program nationally has provided training for more than 14,300 participants from 123 countries.
“CAFNR is just one of many universities that have participated, but we alone have welcomed dozens of fellows from dozens of countries around the world from Africa to Asia to Europe,” says Christy Copeland, assistant director of CAFNR International Programs. “Recently, we have had programs with Vietnam, Bulgaria, Brazil, Malawi and Turkey. They come to learn from a wide variety of topics from biotechnology, agricultural marketing, food safety and climate change. All of which we can provide them with a great resource from all that we have at CAFNR.”
During their stay, the women attended the AgriMissouri Conference and visited Trinklein Brothers Greenhouses in Jefferson City, picked apples at Eckert’s Orchard in Belleville, Ill,. and learned about community-supported agriculture at Lee Farms in Truxton. Several MU faculty met with the women during their two-week visit to discuss food grading, value chains and financing operations.
Visits to the farmers’ markets at Soulard in downtown St. Louis, Columbia and the Central Missouri Produce Auction in Fortuna as well as local grocery stores such as Hy-Vee and Walmart, helped give the women a first-hand look at U.S. produce in stores.
“It was really great to learn about how prices are set for produce in this country,” says Sihem, an engineer with the Algerian National Institute of Agriculture Research. “We don’t have near the standardized markets as you do. Seeing how things are run here will really help Algeria.”
The women also learned about FFA and 4-H programs in the U.S.
“The youth programs you have here are amazing,” says Souad, head of arboreal and viticulture chains at the Algerian Technical Institute of Agronomy. “We don’t have many ways of getting our youth involved in agriculture. I really hope someday to start something like this in Algeria. It’s a great idea and can really help more people see the benefits of agriculture.”
Programs such as the Cochran Fellowship also are ways CAFNR faculty get to learn about other cultures and expand the College’s international reach.
“Our goal is to make a difference in what they are doing and keep building the CAFNR name internationally,” adds Christy. “To build that name, it has to come from the people that have come here, studied here or have received a degree from us as well as these Cochran programs. We treat them the same as our students and alumni, because if they leave here with a great experience, they will most likely share how great our College is in their country and with others. It’s all about the connections, and here at CAFNR we have those connections.”
To view photos from their visit to MU, visit the Flicker photo set.