Balkans farmers show keen interest in postharvest science
UC subtropical horticulture specialist Mary Lu Arpaia, who is based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, was one of four UC specialists who traveled to Sarajevo Oct. 24-28 at the request of local officials to present a condensed version of the UC Postharvest Technology Short Course. Nearly 100 participants from 11 countries attended the program, which included lectures and a field tour. Simultaneous translation was offered in Bosnian and Russian.
“To me it was a very interesting experience,” Arpaia said. “The participants were very engaged in the course and asked lots of questions that were spot-on in terms of sharing practical information. They were very keen to get information on the ‘how to’ and solving practical situations."
Mary Reed of the UC Postharvest Technology Center said interest in the short course was remarkable given that the first estimate from planners was for 25 participants.
“Interest just kept growing and growing as word got around,” Reed said. “Given the challenges of traveling in the region, acquiring visas, and obtaining agency permissions, the participants really had to overcome significant obstacles in order to attend.”
Arpaia said the four-days she spent with Eastern European farmers in an area that suffered bitter ethnic conflicts in the 1990s also made a profound personal impression.
“I had been aware of the war in the Balkans but never fully appreciated the impact of that war on people’s lives,” she said. “You can still see the physical scars of the war – mortar shell scars on buildings, burned and abandoned buildings – and, more dramatically, hear the angst of the people when they talked about those times. It is another example to reflect upon in terms of how lucky we are in the U.S. and that we need to forever be vigilant not to allow animosities to fester due to ethnicity, religion etc.”