It has been 17 years, 40 completed assignments, in 8 countries that included Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Serbia, Kosovo, Moldova, Belarus, and The Republic of Georgia. Although I provided some programs supporting cooperative business development, horticultural crop marketing, and honey production, my speciality became berry enterprise development-- especially blueberry crop development. Labor intensive, high value, with strong market demand, berries are economically sustainable on small holdings of land. Berry production has proven to be an excellent "fit" for agricultural/economic development in states of the former Yugoslavia and many of the newly indepemdent republics of the former Soviet Union. Production is now firmly established in many of the countries where I had the opportunity to work. Hope as been restored for many farm families and local economies are being transformed.
Apart from the good fortune of having established a successful berry farm business of my own, and a brief experience teaching technical horticulture at our local technical college, there were no exceptional qualifications to recommend me for such work--no advanced degrees in agriculture, no long career teaching at a Land Grant University, no experience in government foreign service, no MBA. It was truely a case of being in the "right place at the right time" with a willingness to say yes to an invitation to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity for this experience: to travel to distant lands not commonly visited, for exposure to cultures and histories I had little prior knowledge of, to be able to share the passion and experience of my life's work with people for whom it could make a difference. My life has been enriched. For anything I might have given, I have received so much more in return. It has been a good run.