Darwin G. Braund
Curator, Penn State University’s Pasto Agricultural Museum
Darwin G. Braund is curator of Penn State University’s Pasto Agricultural Museum which houses over 900 rare and unusual farm and household artifacts dating back to the 1840’s. In 1998, he retired from North Carolina State University where he was professor emeritus of animal science. Prior to joining the university, he spent 22 years in research and development at Agway in Syracuse, New York. He was raised on a dairy farm in Bradford County, Pennsylvania and began his career as a Penn State extension dairy specialist. An agricultural antiques collector, he has been instrumental in developing and managing the Pennsylvania All-Dairy Antiques and Collectibles Show in Harrisburg. He spent six months as an agricultural advisor with Poland’s extension system and published a book based on his experiences titled “Tomorrow Finally Came.”
Six years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1995, I traveled to Poland for six months to share agricultural ideas that worked for U.S. extension. Ours was the last team to visit the country in the project administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development. When the teams left Poland in December 1995, 100 faculty members and extension agents throughout the U.S. had been involved.
Farming methods in Poland were reminiscent of U.S farming methods 50 years ago. The Northwestern area of Poland where I was stationed is primarily a forage and grain growing area. The Poles gathered hay with a piece of equipment similar to the rope hay loaders used in the U.S. many years ago. They still were picking up loose hay and storing it by distributing it with forks in a system we in the U.S. used to call “mowing”. They salt their hay to prevent spontaneous combustion. More modern hay making systems, such a small square bales and the use of large round bales were used where hay entered commercial channels and moved around the country.
The Poles grow an enormous amount of grain. Straw was ubiquitous and its primary use was for feeding cattle. It was routine to feed at least five to seven pounds of straw per cow per day. The predominant livestock in Northwestern Poland was beef cattle. The cattle were neither as uniform nor their conformation as desirable as beef animals in the United States. At the time I was there, McDonalds had 35 outlets in Poland. When I returned in 1997, the number had jumped to 95 outlets. Because of the nutritional and genetic limitation, cattle were three to four years old by the time they reached a condition suitable for use as McDonald’s hamburger.
Dairies were very small — between three and eight cows. Dairy farmers took their milk to the roadside in cans where modern tanker trucks would siphon, refrigerate and transport it. The swine industry was predominantly backyard operations with some large confinement operations mixed in. While very long in body conformation, the hogs were exceedingly fat.
I came away from Poland with a new appreciation of the social and political climate in which Poles make decisions. I was frustrated by how long things take to get done there. It is a country the size of New Mexico with 38 million people. Tradition is an obstacle that must be overcome if they are to modernize. They are an inherently pessimistic people. Our challenge was to give them the habit of hope.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.