COLUMBUS — Ohio State’s Office of International Programs in Agriculture, working in cooperation with China’s Ministry of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service, welcomed six visitors to Ohio State as part of the U.S. government’s U.S.-China Scientific Cooperative Exchange Program to acquire training in agricultural extension practices and an overview of immerging agro-technologies in the United States.
This visit came shortly after six faculty and program educators from Ohio State Extension traveled to China in early August for two weeks to exchange knowledge and best practices on urban agriculture.
China’s need for urban-based agriculture is particularly important not only because the nation is the world’s most populous with more than 1.3 billion people, but it also has the world’s highest percentage of people (54%) living in urban areas. The urban population has increased by 16% over a 10 year period and is expected to continue to rise significantly in the coming years.
“In China, the sheer scale of the population and consumption, and thereby the demand for local food production, is plainly evident,” said Dr. Tom Worley. “Planners for urban agriculture in China have a much greater chance of success than we might expect because of the size of the population to be served.”
Federally funded exchange program
The Scientific Cooperative Exchange Program (SCEP), the USDA-funded exchange program that the Chinese visitors participated in at Ohio State from Sept. 9-18, encourages long-term cooperation in agricultural science and technology, in addition to creating an atmosphere for agricultural trade between the two countries.
During the SCEP group’s 10-day stay in Ohio, they not only visited with faculty and researchers within the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) located on Ohio State’s main campus in Columbus, but also at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Ohio State South Centers in Piketon, and the Western Agricultural Research Station in South Charleston.
USA and China are different
Inherent differences between China and the United States’ extension models provided an opportunity for both the Chinese visitors and those who work in or with Ohio State Extension to examine agricultural outreach from a different perspective than what they are normally accustomed to.
While extension systems here in the United States are organized and implemented through their state’s respective land-grant institution, China’s agricultural extension system is carried out under the National Agro-Tech Extension & Service Center (NATESC), a government agency under the Ministry of Agriculture, where it is charged with introducing and disseminating agricultural technologies in the areas of crop cultivation, soil improvement, pest management, water conservation, and pesticide application.
Recognizing that an effective extension system does not exist without strong public-private partnerships, program trainers focused on introducing the SCEP participants to the many activities that CFAES academic departments and Ohio State Extension are engaged in to maintain Ohio State’s strong ties to the agricultural industry.
Valley Vineyards Winery, Dole Food Company, Little Miami Flower Company, and Turkey Run Angus Farm all served as valuable site visits across the state to demonstrate these important linkages between agricultural stakeholders and Ohio State University Extension.
Since the visitors were extension administrators themselves, they took interest in how the leadership of Ohio State Extension strategically manages 680 Extension staff across Ohio, adapts to challenging funding environments, and develops programs so that Ohio State Extension remains innovative and receptive to its constituencies in the 21st century.
The 2014 Farm Science Review in London, Ohio brought the program to a strong conclusion for the visitors, who were eager to attend the annual three-day agricultural exhibition that draws more the 130,000 agricultural producers, industry professionals, and members of the public each year.
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