Vermont Farmers Share the Gift of Knowledge

12/27/2012

During this season of giving, multiple Vermont farmers are preparing for a volunteer trip to El Salvador, where they will give and receive the most sustaining gift of all: knowledge. Starting in January 2013, three groups of farmers from the Northeast Farming Association (NOFA) of Vermont network will spend two to three weeks in El Salvador as Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers with Winrock International, providing training and technical assistance to help Salvadoran farmers learn about organic agriculture production and marketing, improve their farming practices, and ultimately increase their ability to earn an income and feed their families.

This marks the beginning of a NOFA-Vermont/Winrock partnership offering opportunities for Vermont's organic producers to support other farmers' success and continue to improve their own businesses through in-depth learning opportunities. The first three volunteers-Charles Mitchell, Tom Honigford, and Patrick Sullivan-will arrive in San Salvador in mid-January, eager to share their knowledge and make a difference in the lives of others.  In February, Howard Prussack (who just returned from a volunteer trip with Winrock in Myanmar) will lead a second team of volunteers to work with additional groups of organic farmers. The last group will travel in April, focusing on dairy and cheese production and small ruminant animal husbandry. Together, these teams will impart valuable skills and knowledge that most rural Salvadoran farmers are unable to access. Along the way, the volunteers too will learn from the farmers they work with and apply those experiences to their lives and businesses in Vermont.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont is a nonprofit association of farmers, gardeners, and consumers working to promote an economically viable and ecologically sound Vermont food system for the benefit of current and future generations. The Farming Beyond Borders Program of NOFA Vermont creates and supports exchanges between Vermont organic farmers and farmers beyond Vermont's borders in order to increase production, improve environmental sustainability and strengthen financial viability via mutually beneficial relationships and cross-cultural exchange.

Winrock International is a nonprofit organization that works with people in the United States and around the world to increase economic opportunity, sustain natural resources, and protect the environment. Winrock's John Ogonowski and Doug Berueter Farmer-to-Farmer Program fields approximately 200 volunteers each year to assist farmers, agribusinesses, and local organizations worldwide. Under this program, skilled U.S. volunteers provide expertise in a wide variety of areas, including agricultural sciences, farming, agribusiness, enterprise development, marketing, food processing, food safety, and organizational development. Winrock implements Farmer-to-Farmer activities in several countries across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean Basin, and the Middle East. Program funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Food for Peace program under the U.S. Farm Bill, covers volunteer travel expenses and makes the program possible. Volunteers find these assignments to be personally and professionally rewarding. Helping people help themselves is a contribution that makes sense.

For more information about Winrock International's Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Program and opportunities, visit www.winrock.org/volunteer. For more information about NOFA's Farming Beyond Borders Program, visit www.nofavt.org/technical-assistance/beyond-borders.