The Norman E Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture partnered with the America for Bulgaria Foundation to establish a program that would answer the rapid development and modernization of the agriculture industry in Bulgaria. The two organizations wanted a program that would allow leaders and innovators in the Bulgarian agriculture sector to learn cutting edge skills and techniques in their respective industry. With this idea the “Leaders in Agriculture” program was created.
Wanting to positively impact as many individuals as possible, the two organizations developed a training program that would capitalize on the American for Bulgaria Foundation’s leadership and resources and the Norman E Borlaug Institute’s expertise and experience in agricultural training. This collaboration of skills led to an intense 2 week program that takes a group of six to twelve talented young Bulgarians to the United States to study their respective field. During their 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 insure the most passionate and capable individuals are selected to bring their training back to Bulgaria to teach and influence many others.
The first group of participants selected to join the “Leaders in Agriculture” program were from the Bulgarian raspberry industry. The Borlaug Institute reached out to one of its close partners, Washington State University, to host this first group. Washington State University has established itself as a leader in raspberry research and development and its home state is a leader in Red Raspberry production in the U.S. This allowed for the participants to learn cutting edge research and techniques and then see them applied in multiple situations.
Bulgaria is the world’s 13th largest raspberry producer, making the fruit a staple in the economy. Much of the industry is privately owned, using traditional methods. With new techniques and technology the Bulgarian raspberry industry could establish itself as a powerhouse on the world stage.
With this in mind the “Leaders in Agriculture” Raspberry Production and Processing Program was designed to take participants in depth from seed to shelf in the industry. The __ selected participants flew into Washington and were met by Dr. Beverly Gerdeman, a small fruit entomologist from Washington State University. The group started with by covering management and organization techniques with professors and industry leaders. The participants then transitioned to learning about production and processing by visiting numerous farms and facilities ranging small organic farms to large multinational companies. The education went beyond the technical training as well. Throughout the experience one of the key components was business and personal interaction. By introducing the participants to dozens of educators, growers, producers, and sellers, they gained valuable hand-on communication experience to take home. This will help them not only spread the knowledge they gained, but also continue to help Bulgaria grow as an international trader. This immersive experience focusing on a wide variety of components allows for the participants to come back home with a well-rounded skill set.
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 raspberry industry.