Ag students travel to Kazakhstan with Alberta delegation

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November 18, 2016
Caity Anderson can now include international experience on her resumé thanks to a recent trip to Kazakhstan made possible because of her agriculture studies at Lakeland College
“Not many students get the opportunity to go to another country to explore their industry. It was an amazing experience for me,” says Anderson.Lakeland ag trio

She and Jordan Stefaniuk, second-year animal science technology students at Lakeland’s Vermilion campus, joined Lakeland instructor Geoff Brown in Kazakhstan this fall. Brown was Lakeland’s representative in an Alberta delegation that was in the former Soviet Republic from Oct. 20-30. The group included people from the provincial government and cattle breed associations, as well as livestock exporters.

“Kazakhstan wants to develop its beef industry. They’re sitting on the doorstep of India and China so they see lots of opportunities to export beef and other agricultural commodities to these huge markets,” says Brown. With a climate and landscape similar to Alberta’s, the Kazakhstan government turned to the Alberta and Canadian governments a few years ago for assistance in developing their industry. It’s the third time since 2013 that Lakeland has been part of a delegation that travelled to Kazakhstan; the first time also included federal representation.

While other members of the delegation focus on topics such as exporting cattle genetics and creating import protocols, Lakeland’s role is to provide leadership on developing agriculture curriculum and possibly a farm school with various partners in the industry.

“They have a very strong university system but what they’re looking for is practical agriculture training, which is something Lakeland College has excelled at for more than 100 years,” says Brown.

Kazakhstan tripRecognizing what a great learning experience the trip to Kazakhstan would be for Lakeland students, two spots were offered to second-year animal science students in the beef stream. To apply, students had to write an essay on what the experience would provide to them personally and professionally, and explain what they would bring back to Lakeland.

“We had a lot of applications and from those, Caity and Jordan were selected,” says Brown, noting the students have a responsibility to share information about their experience with other students and faculty. During meetings in Kazakhstan, the students provided their insight on being a Lakeland student and the benefits of the learning model provided through Lakeland’s Student-Managed Farm (SMF) – Powered by New Holland.
The Alberta delegation visited two ranches including Dinara Ranch which has a 4,000 head feedlot, and 3,800 Herefords. “They called it a ranch but they were involved in everything. They also had grain, oilseeds, rice, vegetables, dairy and sheep,” says Anderson. 

The massive ranch was the exception, not the rule, as most people have backyard farms with about 10 cows. The students also learned that there are few systems in place in Kazakhstan to support cattle production. For example, there are no auction marts.

As for training opportunities for the people of Kazakhstan, during meetings with various universities and private sector producer groups, Brown discovered many areas of potential partnership. Opportunities include collaboration on international research projects, sourcing Canadian experts for producer conferences and developing young Kazak consultants for the expanding agriculture industry.

Next steps include putting together short courses to be offered either in Kazakhstan or at Lakeland College to “train the trainers” who will be the experts of tomorrow for Kazak farmers. 

“It might make more sense to bring Kazaks to Lakeland College for training,” says Brown. “That way we could provide a short course with several Canadian instructors who are teaching in their area of specialty and provide farm tours of local ranches so they can see how cattle are raised in the Canadian system.” 

The students were impressed with the hospitality of the Kazaks. They quickly learned that they had to leave food on their plate or it would be filled with another serving. “Everyone was so nice and they were eager to learn. It was an awesome experience,” says Anderson. Kazakhstan trip

Highlights of the trip for the students included:
  • a tour of a university and the opportunity to meet with students
  • attending the first-ever cattle show at the KazAgro 2016 Farm Show
  • touring the country’s former capital Almaty and current capital Astana
  • going to the opera 
  • visiting a marketplace   

Anderson and Stefaniuk returned to Canada with industry contacts, incredible stories and a new appreciation for their educational experience at Lakeland.

“We now realize that some people are getting by with so little knowledge. What we’re learning here at Lakeland is absolutely invaluable. It makes us appreciate our education that much more,” says Stefaniuk.  

Photos: Top, Geoff Brown, Caity Anderson and Jordan Stefaniuk spent 10 days in Kazakhstan in October. Middle, Dinara Ranch was one of two ranches the Alberta delegation visited. Bottom, there was always lots of food on the table thanks to the hospitality of the Kazaks.