Baltimore, MD (IOCC) The fall of the Soviet Union restored land ownership back to Georgian farmers and their families, giving them freedom to use their land as they saw fit. It also led to widespread subsistence farming as former large collective farms were broken up into millions of small, privately owned parcels rarely exceeding two acres. The situation is mirrored with dairy cattle ownership. Almost all of Georgia's livestock is held by families in small, fragmented herds. Aging farm equipment and buildings, outdated milking methods, and limited access to funds for improvement have only exacerbated a decade of declining agricultural production as dairy farmers struggle to eke out a living from selling small quantities of milk and homemade dairy products.
Working in partnership with the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate (GOP), IOCC will assist local farmers by creating a demonstration dairy farm that will introduce them to modern practices and technologies in dairy production. Automated milking equipment not currently used by local dairy farmers, yet considered standard in any modern dairy operation today, and Western design elements will be incorporated into the self-contained dairy complex which will be constructed on seven acres of land owned by the Patriarchate in the South Georgian village of Chacharaki. The site was chosen for its close proximity to the Patriarchate cheese plant, which will be supplied with milk from the farm, and its central location for farmers and agricultural students who will visit the model dairy to learn about breeding, management, feeding, housing, disease control and hygienic production of milk.
The southern region of Georgia has significant agriculture potential to produce five times its current output with the proper development. Upgrading the local dairy industry to modern standards and understanding the benefits of pooling resources together with other farmers could bolster a family farm's productivity and provide a steady source of income for poor farming families currently unable to produce enough marketable products to support themselves.
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