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Agricultural diplomacy comes to the Northern Neck

Aktilek Kurmanzhanov, co-founder and chief executive officer of Alpha Berries in the Kyrgyz Republic, presents a gift to Cathy Sachs of Grapewood Farm. The banner was made of wool from sheep native to his country. Photo by Jackie Nunnery

On February 19, an international group of agricultural business leaders from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s SABIT Program toured Virginia farms including Grapewood Farm in Westmoreland County to encourage the exchange of ideas and the expansion of trade.

The group, consisting of 21 members from nine Eurasian countries, was on the last leg of a two-week agribusiness tour to learn about pest management, soil development and all around best practices for growing, according to Wondy Joseph, international trade specialist with SABIT. Joseph said it was a very competitive selection process, having received 450 applications for the tour.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 7,000 people have participated in the SABIT program since it was created in 1990 to encourage economic partnerships internationally. Working primarily with European, Eurasian and South Asian countries, they focus on different industries such as energy, water management, food processing and tourism, generating $1.3 billion in U.S. exports to Eurasia alone.

While at Grapewood Farm, which produces organic grain and stone ground flours, participants toured ….

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