“LDS Experts Help Poland Evaluate Food Production,” Ensign, Dec. 1991, 69–70
At the request of a Polish government official, an advisory team led by three Church Welfare Department managers has evaluated agriculture and food production in a Polish district and has made recommendations for improvement.
Dennis Lifferth, director of Production-Distribution in the Welfare Department, was one of three men involved in the project.
“The request for assistance came in December of 1990,” explained Brother Lifferth. “Due to recent changes in the country’s government, agriculture in Poland is in a transitional stage. When they changed from a planned economy to a free market economy, farmers were unsure of what to do.”
Previously, the government had directed farmers what to produce and where to take their crops. Under the new system, all that has changed.
“There was increasing unemployment, crops going to waste, and a lot of uncertainty about the future,” Brother Lifferth said. At that point, Polish Senator Zbigniew Romaszewski turned to TechnoServe, a nonprofit humanitarian organization based in Connecticut, for help.
Senator Romaszewski is from the Tarnobrzeg District, a district in Poland where agriculture and food production are an economic mainstay. “The senator invited TechnoServe to conduct a preliminary assessment of farm needs and the potential for agribusiness development in the Tarnobrzeg District,” said Brother Lifferth.
TechnoServe recommended the establishment of the Enterprise Promotion and Support Center, a farm advisory center. The center would be managed and staffed by local agricultural specialists, trained and supported by TechnoServe.
After the recommendation for the EPSC was approved, an advisory team was organized. “It was at this point that the Church got involved,” Brother Lifferth explained.
The Church had worked in partnership with TechnoServe on other projects, and TechnoServe officials were aware of the Church’s experience and success with farms, canneries, and other food processing facilities. TechnoServe invited the Church to supply the advisory team leaders.
In addition to Brother Lifferth, M. Brent Chugg and Gary B. Porter, both of whom are Welfare Department Production-Distribution managers, were assigned to the project. Each man led a team of Tarnobrzeg residents and agricultural specialists.
“The three of us went over for three weeks in July and studied three different sectors: dairy, fruit and vegetable, and livestock production,” explained Brother Lifferth.
“We met with farmers, managers of milk and meat plants, and government officials,” he added. “We listened to their suggestions and concerns and discussed ways to improve their local condition. The farmers have no problems producing crops. The major problems seem to exist from the farm gate on.”
After the three-week study, the men returned and compiled a 230-page report complete with conclusions and recommendations. “Basically, we confirmed the need to establish a local farm advisory center to help farmers market their crops and process the food to increase their income,” Brother Lifferth said.
Although many of the proposed solutions to the challenges faced by Tarnobrzeg farmers require national policy changes, the advisory team focused directly on what farmers, with the assistance of TechnoServe and the advisory center, could do locally to improve their standard of living.
“TechnoServe’s approach to solving community problems is similar to Welfare Services’ approach,” Brother Lifferth pointed out. “The people are encouraged to solve their problems locally whenever they are able. We’re there to help them help themselves.”
In September, Brother Lifferth returned to Poland, presenting conclusions and explaining the recommendations. “I met with TechnoServe officials, government officials, and the team members we’d worked with earlier,” said Brother Lifferth.
“The farm advisory center is now developing materials and meeting with farmers to help them succeed.”