Friday, May 11, 2018

Developing Agricultural Education in Kosovo

Today definitely had a focus on agricultural education and much was accomplished. We started our day by traveling to Vushtrri to visit their Agriculture High School. We received a tour of the school, enjoy refreshments prepared by the food technology students, and then had time to meet with faculty to discuss the agricultural education project we are developing between Kosovo and Iowa. Vushtrri’s excitement for this project is evident.

Following our time we returned to Prishtina for the remainder of the day. Late morning we had a meeting with the Dean and some faculty from the Agriculture Department at the University of Prishtina. We discussed successes and challenges facing their institution and the excitement of moving into a new building in the future.

The Prishtina Agriculture High School is very close to the agricultural university so we simply walked to the high school where we found students preparing our lunch in the food science lab. These students created a spectacular lunch for us along with Prishtina faculty and municipality representatives. We definitely gave the students an A+ (or a 5 in Kosovo grading). We were blown away by their talent in preparing and serving lunch.

After our delicious lunch we spent the afternoon brainstorming, analyzing, and creating the agricultural education partnership project between Kosovo and Iowa. Great plans have been made and work is to be done yet, but we are very happy how things went and are excited to move things forward!

For dinner those in education gathered for a dinner with the Kosovo Ministry of Education. As always the meal was awesome and we were treated to great conversations and fellowship. Saturday will be our final full day in Kosovo, before returning to Iowa Sunday. Saturday night will be capped off with a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Adventures in Gjilan

First thing this morning we hit the road as we made our way to Gjilan in southeast Kosovo. When we arrived we had a meeting with Mayor Lutfi Haziri. He shared lots of information on the municipality of Gjilan with us. He explained that this area is a heavy agriculture area producing fruits, vegetables, tobacco, meat, wood, and processing of food products. His three priorities for the area were to improve infrastructure, agriculture, and education.

From the Mayor’s office we made our way to the Agriculture High School in Gjilan. They currently have a little over 2,000 students in the high school. We were able to visit with the principal and teachers at the school to learn more about how agricultural education operates in Kosovo. We were able to tour their classrooms, labs, greenhouses, and orchards.

We enjoyed a great lunch on top of a hill overlooking the city before visiting Kadri Zeka University in Gjilan serving about 7,000 students. While they don’t currently have agriculture as a degree option they incorporate agriculture into their current programs such as business and economics with the importance of agriculture in the area. They look forward to possibly adding agriculture degrees at some point.

Our final stop in Gjilan was time at Ask Foods. This is a unique food processing company that is growing. They are the only facility in the Balkans that can store fresh fruits and vegetables without freezing products for up to one year. They specialize in fruit juices, spreads, jams, canned vegetables, etc. They export most of their products with markets in New York and Chicago in the USA. We would like to thank Tony Bislimi for hosting us and planning our time in Gjilan.

From Gjilan we returned to the hotel and immediately traveled to Vushtrri where Norwalk, Iowa and Vushtrri signed their sister cities agreement. It was a great evening of ceremonies, including speeches, singing, and dancing. We concluded our day with great conversations at the restaurant Soma as we prepare for a busy Friday in Kosovo!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Exploring Dairy, Education, and Potatoes in Kosovo

We started off the day with a large group of the delegation meeting with the Minister of Innovation, Besim Beqaj, at the American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo. The minister did a great job of outlining possible areas of growth for education and his vision for Kosovo to lead IT in the region with all the young people in Kosovo. We were able to have great discussion and ask many questions.

After our breakfast, hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo, we broke off from the large group and we headed to Eurolona. Eurolona is a farm who’s main products are dairy and wheat. While Eurolona is a farm they are also a processing facility for dairy producing milk, yogurts, cheese, and other dairy products. They utilize all of their milk and buy milk from other area farmers to produce all of their products that are currently sold in Kosovo. As their operation grows they are looking towards the possibility of export markets. Currently they are milking in a tie stall setup, but are in the process of switching to a free stall/open setup with an eight herring bone parlor. It was great to see their setup and tour their facilities. We were even able to see some genetics from Iowa State University as Eurolona is the home of the first embryo transfer cattle in Kosovo and the region. This work has been done by Dr. Curt Youngs from Iowa State University.

For lunch we enjoyed another spectacular meal in an outdoor setting. Many enjoyed fish while others opted for steak or calzones. Following lunch we met with Almir an agricultural educator at the Prishtina Agriculture High School and the principal of the school. This is the only magnet agriculture school in the country. They currently have 530 students studying agriculture. Unfortunately, there were no students on campus as it was a national holiday. We were able to see their awesome facilities including their food lab, greenhouses, computer labs, orchard, and science laboratories. We will return to the Prishtina Agriculture High School on Friday to learn more about their program and see their school farm.

Before retuning to the hotel we visited M&6 Products who process potatoes into french fries and also create kroket, which is similar to a mozzarella stick with meat chunks. Thanks to Almir for sharing agriculture in Kosovo with us today. After returning to the hotel we had the opportunity to enjoy dinner at nearby Soma and enjoy conversations with colleagues and friends from Iowa. We look forward to another exciting day tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Diplomatic Day in Kosovo

It was a very productive Tuesday in Kosovo. We learned a lot about the country of Kosovo and met with many governmental leaders. We kicked off our morning with a an overview of Kosovo from Ambassador Delawie with the U.S. Embassy. He discussed successes and challenges in Kosovo, before we broke into smaller groups to visit with embassy representatives focusing on our specific sectors of interest.

Following our time with Embassy officials we departed for the Kosovo Parliament chamber for a meeting with the speaker of the parliament and members of parliament. Members of parliament and leaders from the Iowa delegation shared perspective on the Kosovo/Iowa partnership. While Kosovo has room for great improvement and advancement there is no doubt the leaders and people of Kosovo have a strong work ethic and willingness to work together to take Kosovo to new heights. Once again, the love for Iowans was shared with the emphasis that they want Kosovo to feel like our second home.

After a spectacular lunch were we enjoyed a typical Albanian lunch we broke into our different sector groups. The agriculture team joined up with the education team to visit with the Minister of Education, Shyqri Bytyqi. All of the education representatives had time to share information about our educational institutions. We briefly discussed a technical training facility that DMACC is leading the development of with the Ministry and the Global Agriculture Learning Center at Hawkeye Community College has been asked to develop and lead the agriulture portion.

We once again broke into smaller groups as our time with Minister Bytyqi came to a close and our agriculture team split from the education team and made our way to the Ministry of Agriculture. We had a great discussion on agriculture with Minister Nenad Rikalo and General Secretary Kapllan Halimi. We were able to discuss the agricultural education development program we are working to implement and the Ministry is excited to move the project forward. We look forward to growing collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture in Kosovo.

We concluded our evening with a specatacular dinner hosted by Erolld Belegu. Tomorrow is a holiday in Europe so many agencies and businesses are closed. We will spend the day exploring agriculture and visiting a high school agricultural education program. Even in Kosovo agricultural educators pull crazy hours welcoming us on their day off.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Welcome to Your Second Home: Kosovo

We have arrived in Kosovo! It was long travels with layovers in Chicago and Frankfurt, Germany, but we made it to Kosovo with out any major problems. However, we were delayed a bit with our arrival to Kosovo, so after arriving at the Prishtina airport and being welcomed through the VIP reception area we headed straight to a welcome by the Prime Minister. His message was clear. “Welcome to your second home. Our home is your home.” This great hospitality will no doubt be a theme for the week. Our Kosovar friends are always so welcoming and are gracious hosts.

Following our time with the Prime Minister we had a little time to check into the hotel and freshen up before traveling to Stone Castle Vineyards and Winery. Stone Castle is the largest winery in the region and have started exporting to Iowa and plan to expand export markets. It was a specatacular evening with friends discussing the Kosovo/Iowa partnership over dinner. It was great to catch up with former Minister of Agriculture Memli Krasniqi.

Tomorrow will be a full day with briefings from the U.S. Embassy and Kosovo Ministries, before visits with the Minster of Education and Minister of Agriculture. We look forward to an exciting day growing our partnerships in Kosovo!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Off to Kosovo!

This next week is going to be an exciting time of agricultural education development in Kosovo! I am at the airport getting ready to board a flight to meet up with a large delegation from Iowa heading to Kosovo organized by Iowa Sister States. There will be groups focusing on education, sports, art, business, law enforcement, and many other areas. Our focus for the week will be agriculture with a strong focus on agricultural education. The agriculture team is compromised of representatives from the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa FFA Foundation, Iowa FFA, Iowa State University, and of course the Global Agriculture Learning Center at Hawkeye Community College.

We are excited to grow agricultural education both in Kosovo and in Iowa through this unique program. Follow our adventures throughout the week to learn more about this program and other agricultural connections and partnerships that we are building. Off to Kosovo!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Drones and Agriculture Disasters

Drones have grown greatly in popularity over the years and everyone shares how much "fun" they can be. The linked video below looks at how drones have been used in the Philippines to assess agriculture after disasters as a tool versus a toy. We encourage you to watch the short video clip linked and utilize the discussion points to guide conversations in your communities around the world!

Discussion Points
  • How are drones being utilized within agriculture in the Philippines?
  • While one major example for drones is highlighted in the video, what other ways are drones utilized within agriculture currently? 
  • Explain why drones can be much more efficient than people as tools in agriculture.
  • Outside of drones, what other technologies are, or could be used, to increase production and/or add value to agriculture? Explain how the technology is utilized and it's benefits.
  • What do you see as the future capabilities of drones in agriculture around the globe?