Learning is Key to Growing More Successful
Alexander Kravchenko is one of those Ukrainian farmers who never tires of learning. And these days there’s plenty to learn about farming. This successful farmer says that his success depends on swift adoption of new technology and marketing practices. Back in 2003 Alexander was one of the first clients of Agricultural Marketing Project (AMP) and he was eager to receive the project’s technical assistance and marketing training. In just three years he has become one of the leading farmers in the Cherkasy region. His background in engineering has allowed him to use his excellent analytical thinking and organizational skills, which has played a major role in his farm’s development. Furthermore, he is constantly applying modern practices in vegetable production and marketing. With AMP’s assistance, Alexander has developed close working relationships with a variety of suppliers including high quality seed, drip irrigation and crop protection chemical companies as well as establishing new marketing channels. During his first year of farming Mr. Kravchenko produced tomatoes on 18 ha of non-irrigated land. In 2004 he increased his area of tomato production to 33 ha, including 10 ha with drip irrigation. Based on market needs, this year the crop assortment was expanded to include cabbage, carrots and cucumbers and continues to improve its production technology. To ensure higher tomato yields, he purchased certified seedlings for part of the tomato production and used a precision drill on the remaining area.
The farm also uses modern practices for its cucumber production as certified seedlings are grown on trellises. In addition, drip irrigation is used on more than 30 ha of land; this is rather significant for Ukraine. But even the best technology doesn’t do you any good if you can't sell the produce. To expand his farm, Mr. Kravchenko relies on long-term partnerships with processors and wholesalers. Once again using AMP’s assistance, Mr. Kravchenko has developed important business contacts with major national processors and wholesalers who buy produce in the Cherkasy region. Alexander Kravchenko negotiates contracts with potential buyers prior to the new season. This allows him to develop more effective production and marketing plans. This year contracts were signed for 1,200 tons of vegetables worth approximately $181,000. The adopted production and marketing practices produced good returns and in 2004 the farm earned $35,000. The expected profit in 2005 is estimated to reach $75,000.
More importantly, Alexander has always welcomed a chance to contribute to the learning process and share his knowledge. One way he does this is by hosting AMP’s field demonstration plots for the second year already. Mr. Kravchenko’s farm serves as a sort of a training base for local farmers who want to garner information about the latest techniques and technologies in agriculture. In the past two years AMP successfully conducted two major field days and seminars at his farm where more than two hundred participants attended the events. The participants were able to observe the results of using quality hybrids and varieties and new or improved production practices. Recognizing the need to think about his farm’s sustainability, the farmer also has plans to extend his vegetable marketing season. In order to accomplish this he has initiated developing a farmer coop that will provide vegetable storage services and will allow them to benefit from higher prices during the period of off-season sales. In June 2005 with direct help from AMP Mr. Kravchenko and his neighboring farmers registered Melniki Service Cooperative. The coop has applied to AMP for grant assistance in order to construct vegetable storage facilities. Alexander’s personality is an excellent example of someone who continues to be a leader in his farming community, learning and sharing his knowledge and creating opportunities for himself and his fellow farmers.