Agricultural students in the northeastern Russian region of Vologda will soon be packing their bags for eight-month internship on farms in Germany and Finland to broaden their knowledge and practical skills. Set to start in May, the students will be the fifth group to take part in this program organized by Slow Food Vologda Convivium in partnership with a local university and hosted by small-scale farmers from the Terra Madre network.
In 2006 members of the local ACCOR farmer's union branch attended the Terra Madre world meeting, and on their return they were not only inspired to form the convivium but also to create an opportunity for students to be able to experience the knowledge and cultural exchange offered through the network. So far students have been hosted at farms in Sweden and Finland, giving them the opportunity to learn from farmers by living and working side-by-side with them.
"Different regions and cultures have their own way of doing things, but we can always learn from each other towards shared goals of improvement," said Sergey Belyakov, the coordinator of the program, Slow Food Vologda leader and President of the local ACCOR branch. "Students learn first hand how to care for animals, harvest rye, oats and barley, plant crops, and assist in the production of dairy products, as well as other every-day farm tasks".
Last summer 37 students spent four months working on farms in Finland and came back enthusiastic about their newly acquired skills and experiences. Intern Olga Moris admits that helping the Finnish farmers was not a summer holiday: "During the first weeks it was very difficult for us to adopt to a new schedule, but our hosts helped us a lot. These months turned out to be an advanced school for us... we learned many new methods that are not used in Russia."
On their return from the trip, students presented their experiences to the convivium and university on the occasion of Terra Madre Day 2010. In fact, many students have become active in local Slow Food and Youth Food Movement activities since their internships, and a number have returned to host farms to work following their graduation.
Students participating in the program study at the Vologda State Milk Economic Academy (VSMEA), established in recognition of Nikolai Vereshchagin - a Russian dairy expert and father of the famous butter of the region which is still produced by traditional producers who are today united in the Vologda Butter Producers food community. The Academy was founded in 1911 to promote research in the field of dairy farming and cattle breeding, and prepare its graduates to serve as the region's next generation of farmers and scholars.
For further information:
Slow Food Vologda