Bringing Down the House!

Written by Stephen Ratasky, Junior at Clemson University

Stephen and Annie on her 21st
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Dr. House and his wife Nancy at our Valentine’s Day party

Last Saturday, February 23rd 2008 I had a chance to sit down and communicate with our Dairy Marketing professor, Dr. Verne House.  Dr. House is a very multi-functional professor with experience and knowledge in many different aspects of the agricultural world including economic development in rural areas and regulation of land use and water management.  With over 40 years of teaching experience in more than 5 different countries, Dr. House has seen many changes that have taken place within the vast world of agriculture.  This past month I found great pleasure being able to talk to someone who was very well educated and traveled and brought different ideas and opinions to the classroom.  The best part about Dr. House is that he loves to teach.

Throughout his teaching career Dr. House has been fortunate enough to go abroad several times. I asked him if teaching abroad and teaching to students who speak different languages has affected his teaching style and methods in order to communicate to his students. His answer was most certainly yes. “I don’t want to waste student’s time,” said House. “I think it is much better for a professor to admit to his lack of preparation and end class rather than drawing out the entire lecture period just for the sake of doing so.”  

Of the many questions I asked our professor this past Saturday one of my favorite responses was to my question “What brought you here to Moscow?”  He simply replied “There were students.”  Not only does Dr. House have great interest in the fields of agriculture marketing and economics but his love for teaching is one of many reasons why he has been in the game for so long.  “Former Soviet countries interest me and I enjoy teaching students in foreign countries,” said House.  Dr. House has taught hundreds of students all over the world and says that there is a distinct difference between teaching students abroad and teaching domestically in the United States.  “Abroad students are more selective, more motivated, and are more focused on learning as opposed to just earning the mark of completing a course.”  Dr. House feels that content and context of the lesson are equally important. “I need to be concise, simple and brief when teaching to foreign students” he said. He also said, “When abroad you have the chance to be more useful to students, they have a greater need to learn so one must be prepared not to waste any time.”  With this stated, it does not surprise me that this professor belongs to 8 different university faculties.

From the beginning of our first lecture to the final test, Dr. House stressed the importance of the “structure, conduct and performance” model in our marketing class.  Dr. House feels that this is one of the most basic, yet critical points to stress when teaching marketing to students.  I asked him is his favorite part of teaching marketing to new students and he stated that he loves to teach the basic principles of marketing. In addition, he also enjoys helping other students learn better methods and analysis of economics in agriculture.  Dr. House wishes that agricultural marketing was more similar to education 45 years ago because there was more free knowledge and sharing of information. “If I can give any advice to future marketing students it would be to read everything, indulge in as many textbooks as possible, talk to people, ask questions, learn new languages and explore the world because there has been an enormous increase of trade between countries for agricultural commodities.”

The months seem to fly by here in Moscow but our first class was a great experience. I have always been very interested in food and agriculture but I have never had first hand knowledge in this field.  Dr. House has inspired me to further my education in agriculture and to travel as much as possible.  I think it will be hard for Dr. House to stop teaching because of the never-ending changes that marketing, agriculture, and this world will continue to face.  After all, there are always students who want to learn.  I would like to give special thanks to Dr. House, for he has planted a seed in me that will continue to flourish and prosper everyday.

Also in this Issue...

  • Alas, Men’s Day by Marina Besedina
    "This holiday marks the date of 1918, during the Russian Civil War, when the first draft into the Red Army occurred. This holiday was first called Red Army Day, and then in 1949 it was renamed Soviet Army and Navy Day."
  • Out and About by Ben Crooke
    "Whatever impressions I had of the Russian Dairy Industry before coming here have been replaced by these educational visits. Coming from a dairy farm myself and aspiring to operating my own farm, I was naturally eager to see the workings of the dairy industry here. "
  • Weather by Becky Dunmyer
    " The snow has melted and it has been pretty rainy, causing the roads to be very wet and dirty. The mornings and afternoons are warm, but the nights cool off considerably. There were a few days where we actually saw the sun."

Out and About

Written by Ben Crooke, Freshman at Penn State

While being quite unaccustomed to urban living, I have been thrilled to embark on several farm field trips outside the city limits. Learning can be accomplished in the classroom but only applied outside, and it’s wonderful to see working agriculture in Russia.

Group Shot at Ehrmann Company
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Group Photo at Ehrmann Company (later we traded the hair nets for free yogurt!)

Our field trips so far have included a milk processing plant and two dairy farms. Whatever impressions I had of the Russian Dairy Industry before coming here have been replaced by these educational visits. Coming from a dairy farm myself and aspiring to operate my own farm, I was naturally eager to see the workings of the dairy industry here. Both the dairy plant and farms were very clean with high levels of automation and efficiency.

The milk processing plant is owned by a German company, Ehrmann, and been in operation in the Moscow region since 2000. Our eager group of American and Russian students took in all the technical director of the plant had to say and enjoyed the tour of the production lines. Ehrmann is over 100 years old and has a great reputation for high quality products. After sampling some of their products myself I can vouch for their products. Following an interesting tour of the highly automated, very sanitary, vacuum sealed production lines and warehouse, we were treated to lunch by the plant in their cafeteria. My father always inquires as to, ‘How was the food?’

Sasha and the cow
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Russian student Sasha introduces himself to the ladies!

(The real question), and I’m happy to report that we were fed a scrumptious meal topped off with Ehrmann yogurt. After an enjoyable excursion to the milk processor I was ready and enthused to see a dairy farm.

Annie and a Calf
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Annie and a baby dairy calf making friends.

I don’t think I can speak for all members of our group, however, since several members complained about the smell on the farms. I didn’t notice any smell and kept asking questions. While the technology and systems were very similar to dairy farms in the U.S. the total milk production was lower than I’m used to seeing. While genetics probably played a partial role in this low production, the lack of corn and soybeans in the cow’s diet was the biggest contributor.

Group Shot at Ehrmann Company
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Two contented dairymen, Ben and our tour guide!

The first farm we visited didn’t feed any corn and soybeans and averaged 18 Liters of milk per cow per day, while the second farm did feed corn and soybeans and averaged 25 Liters of milk per cow per day. Overall, both farms were very impressive and I really enjoyed talking to the farm workers (who were giving us the tours) and learning how their systems operated.

Dairy calves during the Russian winter
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Dairy calves during the Russian winter

A hands-on learning experience out on the farm or in the factory is a vital part of understanding where our food comes from. One of the main reasons that I signed up for this program was that I knew we would go on field trips.

So far to say the least I have not been disappointed, I am looking forward to seeing other parts of Russian agriculture.



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