Bulgaria’s dairy industry has been a key part of the agricultural sector for decades. A majority of the industry’s dairy producers only have a few head of dairy cattle to provide for their family and trade locally. Bulgaria’s acceptance into the European Union in 2007 opened the door to growth and trade in the country, but the agriculture sector and particularly the dairy industry has remained stagnate. With new training and technology the Bulgarian dairy industry could see its international presences greatly increase.
After a successful Raspberry Production and Processing program, The Borlaug Institute and The Americans for Bulgaria Foundation developed a second “Leaders in Agriculture” program to target the dairy industry and help it embrace the new possibilities for growth.
The “Leaders in Agriculture” is a program that allows leaders and innovators in the Bulgarian agriculture sector to learn cutting edge skills and techniques in their respective industry. It was started in late 2015 as a partnership between The Norman E Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and the America for Bulgaria Foundation. The program is an intense 2-week training that takes a group of six to twelve talented Bulgarians to the United States to study and train in their industry. During the two week stay the program participants are completely immersed in a specific industry with a variety of teaching techniques including classroom lectures, hands-on trainings, laboratory experiences, site visits, and field trips to provide relevant information regarding the field of study.
In order to be accepted into the program participants go through an open competition and personal interviews with a panel of local and international experts from the fields of agriculture and agribusiness. This is to assure the most passionate and capable individuals are selected to bring their training back to Bulgaria to teach and influence many others.
The “Leaders in Agriculture” Dairy Production and Processing Program was designed to take participants in depth from the local farm to the market shelves. The eight selected participants began their training in Clovis, New Mexico, under the guidance of Dr. Tomaszewki, professor emeritus of Dairy Science at Texas A&M University. Clovis and the surrounding area have hundreds of dairy farms and the city also is in close proximity to leaders in the dairy processing and marketing industry, making it a prime location to train. The participants were immersed in the local industry,
starting with management techniques and then moving to the technical details of the industry such as milk synthesis and production, health practices, modern feeding techniques, and large scale equipment operation. Experts, including professors and CEOs, from across the nation taught the participants with hands-on and engaging presentations. In addition the participants discussed with industry leaders how to market a commodity like dairy and learned about unique tools including the genetic profile program. For additional real world application of knowledge, the group visited a wide array of local dairy industry operations and facilities like local organic dairy farms, a local milk hauler, cheese plants, yogurt factories, credit operations, and software providers. This extensive exposure focusing on not only industry skills and techniques, but also firsthand experiences allows for the participants to have a confident background to return home with.
The participants have returned to Bulgaria and are implementing the techniques learned in their home environment with the technology and resources that are currently offered. All the participants have begun to distribute their knowledge with local institutions and communities in hopes of positively impacting the Bulgarian dairy industry.