Ag Biotech is Focus of International Visit

Students from NC State joined Turkish agriculturists touring Jerry and Deborah Pace's farm in Johnston County.

Students from NC State joined Turkish agriculturists touring Jerry and Deborah Pace's farm in Johnston County.

The chance to learn more about biotechnology from world-leading experts drew eight agriculturalists from Turkey to NC State University this fall.

They were part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cochran Fellows program. The program, offered through USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, brings agricultural professionals from middle-income countries, emerging markets and emerging democracies to the United States for short-term training.

The visitors were at NC State for two weeks in September, hosted by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Global Academy, an educational effort of CALS International Programs in partnership with the university’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center (GES).

The Cochran Fellows not only got to met with some of the world’s leading agricultural biotechnology scientists and scholars, but they also toured large ag biotech companies and private farms and visited with representatives of government agencies. In all, 13 faculty members representing 11 departments in three colleges participated.

According to CALS International Programs Director Jose Cisneros, the fellows weren’t the only ones who benefited from the visit.

“This training program provides the opportunity for faculty members, students and our state community to have an international experience without having to travel abroad,” Cisneros said.

Indeed, students in Dr. Bob Patterson’s undergraduate “Crops: Adaptations and Production” class got a taste of international agriculture when they toured Jerry and Deborah Pace’s farm in Clayton with the fellows.

Jerry Pace, who operates an 800-acre farm with tobacco, soybeans and sorghum with his brother, said that he was happy to open his farm to visitors because such exchanges are important for future international agricultural trade.

He also said that, despite language differences, the fellows’ commitment to agriculture and to learning was obvious.

“It was interesting to them to see how agriculture is done on this side of the world,” he said. “But even though we may do things differently, they had the same passion for agriculture that we do.”

Agricultural Institute student Lauren Webster said the trip to the Pace farm was the first time she’d gone to a working farm. “It was wonderful to get to see the process in real life,” she said. The trip also sparked her interest in international agriculture.

“I have never traveled internationally, but I would love to one day, especially after the experience with the Turkish guests,” she said.

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