A Ukrainian who has conducted agricultural tours for countless Americans and his countrymen is appealing to American farmers to support relief and rebuilding efforts in his nation’s farming community.
Roman Grynyshyn brought his story to the Moorhead Rotary Club last week. His organization, World to Rebuild Rural Ukraine, is asking agriculturalists to consider donating one penny per bushel harvested this summer to provide humanitarian relief to Ukraine’s small, independent agricultural sector, which farms about 30% of its land. Larger privately owned farms account for about half of acreage, while corporate farmers make up the remaining 20%.
“Ukraine has always been the breadbasket of Europe,” he said. “Russia has never liked that.” He told of the confiscation of private land by the Russian communists in the late 1920s and early ’30s, part of the cause of the Holodomor, the Great Famine that starved millions: “The land was owned by all but cared for by none. It ruined us.” Troops came again, he said, in 1972-73, once more seizing farms.
“Again, Russia wants to ruin Ukraine and ruin the world’s food supply, as well as our agriculture and natural resources,” he said. He pointed out that, while Ukraine may look small on a map that includes all of Russia, it is one-third the size of Germany and 41% of Italy, as well as one-third larger than all of Hungary.
The Russians have demanded Ukrainian farmers give them 10% of stored grain and 70% of this year’s harvest under threat of death. They have shelled Black Sea ports where most grain is shipped, bombed the rail-car repair facility and burned down the second biggest export terminal. That blockade threatens not only the Ukrainians but the major customers for their crops, including Somalia, Benin, Egypt, Sudan and other African and southeast Asian nations.
Since the invasion in February, Grynyshyn said, enemy forces have deliberately targeted the ag sector, seizing and destroying farm equipment, seeds, fertilizer and fuel. He described farmers driving their tractors wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, and shared stories of uncovering unexploded munitions while plowing their fields.
Grynyshyn’s visit was facilitated by Hillsboro, North Dakota, farmer Jon Bertsch of Bertsch Farms, one of the 3,000 or so farmers whom he has met through conducting international farm tours and exchanges through his company, Medialite MICE/Travel Ukraine. The Grynyshyns – including his wife and three children – plan to speak to area organizations through the end of July.
The WRRU penny-per-bushel campaign is supported by what he calls his “board of ambassadors,” a group of ag professionals from all over the American heartland, as well as a parallel group in Ukraine. Recipients of the humanitarian aid will be eligible based on the damages they have suffered, whether they can apply for other aid, and other need factors. “The rebuilding is going to last for many years,” he observed.
WRRU does free educational Zoom and YouTube updates every other week, with the next scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday, July 1. More information and donation links can be found at www.wrru.org.