TST, Vol. 8, Issue No. 24/2001
At the Agriculture Appropriations Conference Committee, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur offered and had adopted an amendment that names the Farmer to Farmer program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in honor of John Ogonowski, the pilot on American Airlines Flight 11 to Los Angeles that crashed into the World Trade Center. He is remembered for his generous efforts on behalf of farming in Massachusetts, and particularly for immigrant farmers from Cambodia whom he assisted as part of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (NESFP), a project of Tufts University, funded by the USDA.
Kaptur, the senior-ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, is a 10 term representative from Northwest Ohio.
Mr. Ogonowski became involved with this project at its very inception over three years ago, when Paul Fischer of the Farm Service Agency in Westford contacted him looking for land to make available for Southeast Asian families living in nearby Lowell who wanted to farm. John recognized this immediately as an opportunity to help a worthy group of beginning growers to practice another kind of agriculture. He not only made land behind his home available to these farmers, but White Gate became the first all-commercial "mentor farm" - a training site for these beginning growers.
- excavated a pond as a water source;
- set up an irrigation system connected to it and to existing wells;
- ordered materials and set up a greenhouse so the growers could raise seedlings and do extended season production.;
- He provided advice to them on managing production, pest control, harvesting
and other production practices;
- He participated at project steering committee meetings;
- he and his wife Peggy hosted a number of these meetings at their home where they would serve dishes made from their farm grown vegetables and fruits in additional to other great foods;
- he rarely collect the rents and he did so much else for the growers that took up his time and created out-of-pocket expense for which he often never asked for reimbursement;
- He was a founder and active member of a local land trust that has helped to save a substantial amount of local farmland in Dracut from development.
August Schumacher, Jr., former USDA Undersecretary of Agriculture and a founder of the NEFSP, was, like everyone who know him, tremendously anguished by this catastrophic event: "John Ogonowski's tragic death is a terrible loss to Peggy, their children and his wonderful parents and to so many in Massachusetts farming. He was so committed to helping immigrant farmers, to assist new immigrants from war torn Asia to make a better life farming in America. I just think how ironic it is that someone who worked so hard to help victims of terrorism should be brought down by an act of terrorism himself. He will be sorely missed."
The Farmer-To-Farmer Program provides short-term U.S. agricultural technical assistance, on a people-to people basis, to developing countries worldwide. Its purpose is "to assist in increasing food production and distribution, and improving the effectiveness of the farming and marketing operations of farmers." The program, funded in the Farm Bill and is managed by the Office of Private and Voluntary Cooperation, Bureau for Humanitarian Response, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), utilizes the expertise of U.S. farmers, agriculturalists, land grant universities, private agribusinesses and non-profit farm organizations on a voluntary basis in response to local needs identified by host country farmers and organizations.
Since 1992, USAID has provided Public Law 480 funding for Farmer-to-Farmer activities in the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union (NIS). More than 2,700 volunteer assignments have been completed in the 12 NIS countries, with about 50 percent in Russia.
NIS-FTF volunteers assist private farmers in learning skills essential
to running farms as businesses, and have had a significant impact on agricultural
marketing. Through volunteer assignments, private farmer cooperatives and
associations were formed and strengthened, agricultural information radio
programs were developed, and agribusinesses were helped in food processing,
opening supermarkets, establishing land appraisal and mortgaging systems,
and finding project financing.
November 8, 2001