February 12, 2016

South African farmers learn from Wisconsinites

A farming delegation from South Africa had quite an experience at the Wisconsin State Fair.

The group traveled to Milwaukee to learn more about Wisconsin agriculture. State Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel answered many questions. “They so desperately need people to understand how to produce food, how to take care of the food products, how to distribute food, that they are instructed to go and find somewhere in the world to learn this. They were told to go to the U.S. and the embassy told them to come to Wisconsin.”

The group from South Africa was planning to spend 1 1/2 hours at the State Fair, and they spent the whole time in the sheep barn, Brancel says, marveling over the way the young people were enjoying their projects. “They were so enamored with the youth and their projects and how much enjoyment they were taking and the work and effort they were putting into it. That is just totally unexpected by them because for years youth were required to grow food as a punishment.”

The South Africans also discovered the same enthusiasm in the beef and hog barns.

Brancel says the group took a lot of notes during the discussions. “Because they realize some of their farmers are given tractors, some of their farmers are given seeds, some of their farmers are given land but they don’t know what to do with it.”

The group hopes to develop some youth exchange programs with Wisconsin to learn even more about the UW Extension and the state’s youth programs like 4-H and FFA. They want to learn — not just how to produce food, but how to generate enthusiasm and interest among the youth.

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