Hearing of the opportunity for blueberry production in Europe, a recent innovation, he traveled to Poland to investigate. There he toured farms and talked with Polish blueberry producers. Blueberries quickly became his new passion. His self-study continued as he resolved that he would become his nation's first blueberry producer. The bowling alleys were sold and his assets reinvested when he found an appropriate site of available farm land near Chisinau. Never having been a farmer, he knew he would need a sound business plan and technical support if he was going to succeed in his new venture. There is no competent agricultural extension service in Moldova. He turned to USAID's Moldovan Agricultural Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project (ACED) based in Chisinau--and then my phone rang.
What a joy it has been working with this humble but highly motivated man these past two years. When I first met him he was already at work on his land spreading elemental sulfur to lower the pH of the soil to within the acidic range necessary for blueberry production. By fall of 2014 he was ready to plant 24,000 potted plants of three improved varieties purchased from a Polish nursery.
I have just returned from Moldova and can report that since my last visit, a well has been drilled and a reservoir for irrigation water established. The plants are in the ground under trickle irrigation and mulch. The bushes have established on 25 acres and are growing lush, green and healthy. Iurii had stripped the blossom and green fruits, as I had recommended, sacrificing an immediate harvest in favor of vigorous bush growth. If he can hold out, his first crop will be harvested in 2017. I have every reason to believe he will succeed. Already he "gives back", willingly sharing what he is learning with other interested Moldovan farmers--25 of whom visited his farm on a study tour ACED conducted as a part of my recent assignment.