July 10, 2002 | By: Haven Miller

The University of Kentucky's participation in a program helping bring economic stability to agriculture in Armenia has earned national recognition. On July 8, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman presented a Secretary's Honor Award to the USDA's Marketing Assistance Project in Armenia.

Specialists and county agents with UK's College of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension Service have been an integral part of the MAP in Armenia project since its beginnings in the early 1990s.

"Since 1992 we've had more than 175 people from 37 different universities, including UK, working for us in Armenia," said Tim Grosser, project manager for USDA. "Dr. Craig Infanger with UK is our current director on the ground in Armenia and he's provided leadership during the past year for about 40 Americans and 45 Armenians with the project."

The Secretary's Honor Award each year recognizes personnel and projects that, because of outstanding performance, deserve special merit. The Marketing Assistance Project in Armenia was chosen for its "exemplary leadership in strengthening the links between the U.S. and Armenia resulting in new markets for American farmers and renewed hope for thousands of Armenians."

"Since my arrival in-country last fall, I have had a chance to see project activities in the regions and I am very impressed with what has been done in recent years," said U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway in his congratulatory letter to Grosser and Hiram Larew, director of USDA's International Programs.

MAP in Armenia has made significant strides in helping the former Soviet country build an infrastructure for improved agricultural production and marketing. U.S. personnel have worked hand-in-hand with Armenians to bring fresh water to local villages and to add value to crops.

"We helped drill wells in villages that haven't had potable water for drinking or irrigation in 10 years, and for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union farmers out in the villages are actually getting cash for what they've been growing or raising," said Grosser.

Products successfully being exported include wine, cheeses, processed fruits & and vegetables and herbal teas.

"Our milk marketing associations are creating a real market for milk in rural villages," said Craig Infanger, UK agricultural economist and on- site project director. "A farmer with one cow can market enough milk every month to make more money than a school teacher in the village."

As Armenia continues to recover economically, the country may become a customer for U.S. exports such as corn and soybeans. This is especially true as it develops its poultry industry but must import feeds. Infanger said U.S. participation in MAP in Armenia also brings other rewards for our country and university.

"We're benefiting from seeing that we're making a difference and improving things in some desperately poor villages, and certainly our university is benefiting from having faculty and county agents working on the project, plus having students from Armenia come to UK for their education," he said.

Grosser and Infanger said they are gratified the project and its results are being recognized.

"When you work in a small, out-of-the-way country like Armenia it's not expected that you'll be noticed," said Infanger, who added that the project may be replicated in other countries in the region such as Georgia and possibly Uzbekistan.

Individuals accepting the Secretary's Honor Award on behalf of MAP in Armenia include Tim Grosser and Craig Infanger; also Bill Miller, University of Georgia; Ken Farrell, University of California; Ruth Harris, Virginia Tech; Harley Martin, California State-Fresno; Linda Aimes, University of Vermont; and Raymond Clark, Michigan State.


Tim Grosser, 202-690-0402