By Trisha Gedon
Members of the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program returned recently from an 11-day trip abroad that introduced them to many new agricultural-related concepts.
OALP is an intensive two-year program at Oklahoma State University that is geared toward the development of leaders in the agriculture and agribusiness world. Part of this development comes in the form of helping members gain a broader understanding about agriculture and agribusiness in a global economy.
In an effort to broaden the educational aspect of OALP's Class XI, it is important for participants to be involved in global agriculture, said Joe Williams, OALP director.
"Our main purpose in the international experience is for class members to experience different cultures first-hand and broaden the educational opportunities of the class," Williams said. "While touring Holland, Germany and Poland we had the opportunity to visit a variety of farms and agribusiness firms. We interacted with local farmers, agribusiness people and government officials in host countries. We also were able to visit U.S. embassies and a number of tourist sites.
"Overall, I think the class was surprised and impressed with what they observed on the trip," he continued. "They were able to see and experience agribusiness in a global economy. Class members also learned about trade barriers such as technology and disease concerns, as well as the cost of production as a function of subsidies."
Clay Burtrum, a member of Class XI who participated in the trip, said he learned a lot about global agriculture.
"The Polish agricultural practices were as if we'd stepped back in time 60 years," Burtrum said. "They worked with brooms made from twigs and cleaned pens with pitchforks. On the other hand, the German agricultural practices were very up-to-date and modern in the area of farming."
Williams said the group visited state run farms in both Germany and Poland. The Polish state run farm was more labor intensive.
"Poland has a lot of small scale agricultural endeavors such as grains, potatoes and onions," he said. "The average size of a private Polish farm is 7.4 hectors, which translates to about 18 acres. More than half of the private farms were less than 12.5 acres and only 20 percent of the farms were larger than 25 acres.
Burtrum said he is glad he had the opportunity to travel abroad and learn new things.
"This really gives us a great appreciation for what we are doing in our own agricultural areas," he said. "It also makes us appreciate what we have and gives us something to compare our own daily practices to."
Williams said some of the highlights of the trip were visiting the rose breeding farm and flower market in Holland, as well as the commercial farms. Another up-and-coming agricultural-related effort in Holland and Germany is wind energy. Some farms are using wind energy as another enterprise.
"Overall it was a great experience for the class," he said. "Participants were amazed at the range of technology that is used and the labor-intense production they saw in Poland. Learning and experiencing agriculture in a different way are just a couple of the goals we have for each OALP class.
The trip to Germany, Holland and Poland definitely met our objectives. The international experience is definitely a highlight for the OALP experience."
For more information about OALP, contact Williams at 405-744-5132. Applications currently are being accepted for Class XII. Application forms are available on the Web at oalp.okstate.edu or oklahomaagleadership.org.
Applications and references are due by May 21.