On the present assignment we are preparing a select group of small farms in various regions of the country to launch small raspberry, blackberry, or blueberry plant propagation and nursery enterprises. Our plant shipment from the USA, which will be distributed among them, arrives next week. We also are supporting the development of additional berry production by providing cost sharing for plants, irrigation systems, educational programs and technical assistance. This past week I presented a raspberry production seminar for farmers in the village of Dviri near Borjomi--desperately poor but determined people who propose to form a cooperative to market their berries in Tbilisi.
The 15 year effort to establish blueberry production on derelict tea plantation lands near the Black Sea has been spectacularly successful. An entirely new crop for this region of the world, we are now supporting more than 1200 acres of production on more than 100 farms. Georgian blueberries this past year were marketed to Russia, Israel, Germany, and the UK in addition to local markets. Especially in the last three years, private sector investment in the Georgian blueberry industry has begun to "snowball". It has been exciting and fulfilling to be involved in this development. In the coming week I will be with blueberry producers and new plant nursery enterprises in the region surrounding Zugdidi near the Black Sea.
It has been a good assignment thus far, although my thoughts now drift frequently to Bayfield, family, and friends. News from home tells me the maple syrup season will be starting soon and I am eager to be part of it.