Tom Cadwallader goes to Belarus as Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer

Tom Cadwallader recently returned from a 16-day volunteer assignment in Belarus through CNFA, a nonprofit organization focused on empowering people and enterprises in the developing world.

Cadwallader, Gleason, earned an M.S. in Animal Sciences from CALS in 1980. He is a farmer and UW-Extension agent in Lincoln County. He also also serves as an instructor for the college’s Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers and once managed the sheep program at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station.

He worked in Belarus to teach the International Foundation of Rural Development (IFRD), how to formulate a strategic plan to achieve their goals, translate this strategic plan into an operational plan and formulate performance indicators in key result areas. Cadwallader worked with the IFRD in October 2009 to set up the basis for a strategic planning process to be used to gain funding from domestic and international grants to support rural community economic development work.

“The IFRD has slowly developed over the last 10 years and it is very interesting for me to see how they have evolved and taken on work in rural economic development issues and community development,” said Cadwallader. “The work they are doing is very similar to work being done in the U.S. and I enjoyed seeing these similarities.”

According to Cadwallader there are many similarities between the U.S. and Belarus, and also many differences between the communities of Belarus. “It is just like how in the U.S. there is not one stereotypical person. In Belarus there are many unique communities and different types of people. I don’t speak Russian but I love to watch the interactions between people,” said Cadwallader.
Cadwallader worked with the main host, the IFRD, and three partner organizations located in the southwest, southeast, and north central parts of Belarus, which allowed him to see multiple communities in the country. He has volunteered since 1993 in many different parts of the world.

“Farmer-to-Farmer is about connecting people to share knowledge and experiences. I have been able to share my experiences and help people from other countries adopt U.S. practices. Volunteering is very rewarding because I can share my expertise and see how my job works in a different political environment,” said Cadwallader.

“Volunteering is a lot of fun, and it also helps me learn for my job at home. One main difference I saw in Belarus is that business meetings are very informal. They are usually over dinner and I really enjoy that,” said Cadwallader.

Cadwallader traveled to Belarus under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program, which provides voluntary technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, and agribusinesses in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvements in food processing, production, and marketing. Founded in 1985, CNFA is dedicated to strengthening agricultural markets and empowering entrepreneurs in the developing world.