Training days at MaxYield Co-op
DICKENS -Iurii Nadtochii is a farmer at heart.
He enjoys agriculture so much that last year he decided to leave his family in central Ukraine to pursue an American agricultural experience.
This led him to MaxYield Cooperative, in Dickens, where he arrived as a company trainee in February.
He primarily drives tender trucks and semi trucks to deliver products to MaxYield locations and customers.
Nadtochii operates the grain vac, unloading trucks, helping to prepare anhydrous tanks for fall and helping around the shop. He had his commercial driver’s license in place before arriving in the U.S. on a one-year student visa.
Nadtochii, 28, studied agriculture at a Ukrainian university and worked through an agricultural exchange program to get to Iowa.
“I wanted to see how you do things here,” he said. “My family has a small farm, but you have more equipment and technology, and you grow more bushels per acre.”
Nadtochii said one of the first things he noticed about U.S. agriculture is the amount of fertilizing that gets done.
“We don’t fertilize our ground,” he said, “We spray for weeds, but we don’t put any nitrogen or anything in our farm land.
“When I return to Ukraine, I will think about using nitrogen to help our crops grow, he said.
Nadtochii said the U.S. road system is much less complicated than in his home country.
“Here there are all squares (sections), and it is easy to find my way around. I never get lost,” he said. “If you miss a corner, you just go around and find your way back to it.”
In Ukraine, the system is much more complicated, he said.
Nadtochii said his family grows wheat and sunflowers on their farm of 35 acres, and unlike American farmers, they store nearly all of their wheat harvest on their farm because it will be consumed by livestock and humans.
They take the sunflower harvest to an oil manufacturing plant 30 to 40 miles away
Ukrainian corn farmers produce between 110 and 120 bushels per acre, he said, adding that Ukrainian farmers measure land by hectares, not acres.
Nadotchii said 2.2 acres equals one hectare.
He said the Ukrainian government recently began channeling some dollars toward agriculture, with a new ruling that says land used for agriculture cannot be sold for a period of between five and 10 years.
“They’re doing that so agriculture can grow,” he said, while noting that with many Ukrainians living in poverty he thought it unusual for the government to reach out to people, helping farmers to become established.
Nadochii said this came about after the break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Information from MaxYield Cooperative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Ag Service said state and collective farms were dismantled in 2000, and farm property was divided among farm workers in the form of land shares.
Most new shareholders leased their land back to newly formed private agricultural associations.
Further information from those entities stated that the sudden loss of state ag subsidies had a profound effect on Ukrainian agriculture, as fertilizer use fell by 85 percent in a 10-year period, and grain production fell by 50 percent.
No funding was available for capital investment, so farmers had to deal with aging and inefficient machinery. However, leaving the former Soviet-style command economy behind allowed farmers to make more market-based decisions about crop selections and management, Nadtochii said.
He said Ukraine farmers grow cattle, pigs and only a few sheep, but that chickens are a mainstay on nearly every farm in his country.
He said Ukraine exports mostly grain and livestock, along with some metals. He said most people there work in factories or own businesses.
“Not very many people farm,” he said.
Nadtochii said Americans live better than people in his home country, with a much larger middle class. He estimated that between 5 and 10 percent of Ukrainians are wealthy, with a very small middle class, leaving the population’s bulk living on or under poverty levels.
“Our government does not care about the people,” he said. “They have small salaries, and the roads are terrible. Nobody fixes them.”
Ron Sikora, leader at MaxYield in Dickens, said Nadtochii has caught on to practices quickly and is skilled at driving company trucks.
“He picked up on maps right away,” Sikora said, “and if you show him what to do, he knows what to do.”
Sikora said language is the main barrier MaxYield employees have tackled, with so much American slang to work through.
“But he’s easier to talk to than I had imagined,” Sikora said.
Sikora said he and others at MaxYield have learned things from Nadtochii, and that it has been a good cultural exchange of people and ideas.
“He has taught us a lot about Ukraine that we never knew before,” Sikora said. “It helps us to better appreciate the technology we have here,” he said.
Nadochii will return to Ukraine in December, and would eventually like to work in Canada with his cousin who grows potatoes.
He said he would like to return to the United States to travel because he hasn’t had the opportunity to do much of that.
For now, Nadtochii said he’s looking forward to visiting the Clay County Fair, seeing the ag exhibi5ts.
His co-workers are planning to make sure he gets a tour of AGCO in Jackson, Minn.
Besides his parents, Nadochii has an older brother, who buys and sells meat in a small shop in Ukraine.
He said he has enjoyed the American people he has met.
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