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Celebrating 30 Years of Farmer-to-Farmer: Staff reflections

This article is a contribution to a four-week blog series celebrating 30 years of USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program.

30 years of Farmer-to-Farmer! For a program so rich in diversity, personal and professional exchanges, and lasting impacts, there is so much we could share!

We asked current and former Winrock Farmer-to-Farmer staff to think about their favorite memories and most impactful moments over the years implementing this unique program. Their stories are inspiring and a testimony to why the program still continues three decades after it began.

Over the next four days, we will feature stories from some of these staff, in honor of both the F2F anniversary as well as International Volunteer Day on December 5th.

To kick us off today, Winrock’s former director of volunteer technical assistance, Demetria Arvanitis, shares how F2F is like a family:

“Two weeks ago, as I was texting a former colleague traveling across Europe to alert her to the attack in Paris, I realized that even though I have left Winrock and F2F after 19 years, I will be connected for life to the F2F team, volunteers, and host organizations worldwide.

The F2F project was designed to provide practical agricultural support to farmers all over the world and also to expose American farmers to the world of international development. The deep relationships that have resulted are far beyond what could have been anticipated. Starting with the team in the US that support the recruitment and fielding of volunteers, to the country team who meets the volunteers upon arrival and takes care of their every need, to the hosts who open their homes and hearts, the commitment and loving care is the common thread.

This consideration for the safety and well-being is a core value of the relationships that developed between all members of the F2F family; and it is a family. Also part of this family are the USAID staff who have guided implementers over the years, ensuring that the quality and values of the program remain intact regardless of political changes.

The inspiration behind all of this passion and commitment is the local farmers, cooperative members, youth, and business owners struggling to provide a better life for their families. Their initiative and perseverance are so inspiring that the only option is to jump in with both feet and give it your all. From the women in Nepal who demanded support for organic agriculture years before this was popular, to the farmers in Myanmar desperate for information from the outside to help them improve their yields, our farmer family worldwide is innovative and open to change.

The global community that has resulted from the F2F program is an example of how to make the world more connected by very simple acts of kindness and connectedness. One memory that exemplifies this to me is the act of kindness by a volunteer from Maine, Pixie Day. After a very productive volunteer assignment outside of Moscow supporting goat production with Alexander Bodorov, Pixie returned home and months later drove Buck the stud goat in her beat up Chevy to Boston Logan airport to ship him to Russia to the Bodorov farm. Of course this was a surprise to the Winrock Moscow office and Alexander, but this act of selfless kindness will forever be engrained in my memory and Alexander’s!

Thanks to the full F2F Family for your big hearted efforts and commitment to creating community worldwide!”

From November 16-December 11, F2F program partners are sharing their knowledge and experience providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food. This blog series aims to capture and share this program experience.

Read more articles celebrating 30 years of F2F on Agrilinks