Volunteer Stories

Michael Brugger

Armenia

Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia Farmer-to-Farmer Program

Name: Michael Brugger
Current title/profession: Former engineer
Current hometown: Ohio
Areas of expertise: Construction engineering


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia Farmer-to-Farmer Program
Location of the project: Armenia
Organization that sent the volunteer: ACDI/VOCA


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

Many Armenian farmers realize that new technologies and practices are necessary if they want to improve their productivity and compete in local and international markets. The same is true of Armenian dairy farmers, like Armen Ghazaryan. Armen knew he needed to upgrade his facility. Because he had worked with the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program before in the late 1990s, he decided to approach them again for assistance.

This time, the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, which is implemented by ACDI/VOCA in Armenia, connected Armen with a volunteer construction engineer to help him upgrade his facility from a tie-stall barn to a more modern free-stall barn.

Tie-stall barns, where cows are tied to stalls and unable to move, were once the main type of housing for dairy cattle. In recent decades, that has shifted toward free-stall barns. With the proper design, these types of barns make the milking process less labor-intensive because there is less walking, bending, and kneeling. Cows also tend to experience less bruising and injuries.

In August, Michael Brugger, a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer from Ohio, traveled to Armenia and worked with Armen to design a free-stall barn. This new barn would improve the food safety standards, cows’ health conditions, and feed and milking process on Armen’s dairy farm to help boost his productivity and earnings. Armen presented the design to the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Armenia, and the ministry’s agricultural department quickly approved it.

Armen plans to begin construction of what will be one of the first free-stall barns in Armenia soon. The design included an observation deck, which would allow Armen to invite students, interns, and other guests to his farm for demonstrations, without disrupting his business or compromising sanitation practices.

During Michael’s volunteer assignment, he traveled throughout northern Armenia assisting farmers involved with a local nongovernmental organization on their barn constructions. He and ACDI/VOCA’s Farmer-to-Farmer team soon noticed that there was a great deal of interest in free-stall barns among farmers who were searching for experts to help with the design. Michael recommended connecting those farmers with Armen, who may soon be able to arrange tours of his cutting-edge facility.

Thanks to Michael’s engineering expertise, Armen’s new barn will soon become a resource for many other farmers in Armenia aiming to expand their businesses and improve their livelihoods.

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