Flash back to 1985: “Live Aid” concerts raise millions for famine relief in Ethiopia, Mikhail Gorbachev comes to power and Michael Jordan is named NBA’s Rookie of the Year. In the U.S. Congress, another Farm Bill quietly passes — this one with a tiny amount of funding for an obscure USAID program now officially titled the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program.
Three-and-a-half decades later, the volunteer-driven agriculture technical assistance program known in short as F2F has helped 1.5 million farmers and small-scale agri-entrepreneurs across 112 countries through an incredible 19,000 assignments — all conducted by carefully-matched U.S.-based volunteers, many of whom are farmers themselves.
Winrock, a proud F2F implementing partner for nearly 30 years, played a central role in coordinating USAID’s 35th-anniversary virtual celebration, held December 8, 2020. A Winrock volunteer, Pamela Karg (pictured above), received F2F’s Volunteer of the Year award in the Innovation Category for her groundbreaking work supporting a women’s vegetable producer group in a remote area in eastern Senegal (conducted over the course of two assignments, one in-person and one virtual). Karg helped leaders of the group expand and increase incomes by developing new, safer and healthier food preservation products and seasonings using natural ingredients.
Thirty-five years after the program was born, “the mission to end poverty and hunger remains as crucial as ever,” said USAID’s Maura Barry, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, in remarks kicking off the two-hour, live-streamed event. Barry noted that thousands of F2F volunteers have helped expand the capacity of farmers, small businesses and agriculture institutions around the world, and enabled improved management of food systems and natural resources. And, she added, they have helped millions of Americans better understand the positive impacts of foreign assistance, a theme echoed repeatedly by volunteers during the event.
Behind the scenes, Winrock provided comprehensive support to USAID and all nine implementing partners to pull off the technologically complex celebration, which included a live panel involving volunteers and F2F country directors piped in from various locations in the U.S. and Moldova, Guyana and Armenia. Winrock’s Visual Content Producer Gabe Gentry oversaw production of 11 videos streamed during the celebration, including remarks from Karg and three other F2F Volunteers of the Year, Norbert Soltwedel (Legacy Category), Daniel Flaherty (Outreach Category) and Susan Gurley (New Talent Category), each of whom was introduced and personally thanked by Members of Congress representing the volunteers’ home districts.
Greg Ringler, a Senior Analyst from Winrock’s Information and Communications Technology team, choreographed tech for the entire event via Teams Live, while Senior Content Manager Tim May and other members of Winrock’s Communications Team oversaw writing, editing and design of a 57-page commemorative book containing 29 stories with accompanying photographs from all F2F implementing partners. The compilation, to be released on F2F’s website, is a curated selection of stories of collaboration, problem-solving and progress featuring F2F volunteer assignments in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, and includes four Winrock stories spotlighting important volunteer-led agriculture advances in Myanmar, Guinea, Nepal and Nigeria.
The event included a tribute to one of the program’s namesakes, the American pilot and agriculture activist John Ogonowski, killed when his plane was hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. Ogonowski, a Vietnam veteran and farmer who raised pumpkins, blueberries, corn and peaches on his land in Massachusetts, was also an ardent advocate of aid to Cambodian immigrant farmers. The F2F program’s founder and second namesake, former U.S. Rep. Doug Bereuter of Nebraska, also participated, with welcoming remarks and an introductory essay penned for the F2F book telling the program’s humble origin story.
During the panel discussion, F2F Moldova Country Director Nadejda Mocanu said the program’s direct-exchange approach, with emphasis on sharing, learning, adapting and two-way communication contributes to “changing people’s lives, drop by drop.” Winrock volunteer Pamela Karg agreed, noting that volunteers’ lives are invariably enriched and their perspectives broadened just as much as those of farm community members who reached out to request help.
“It makes the world so tiny,” Karg said. Congratulations, Farmer-to-Farmer!