Chinese Educators Visit New Jersey to Learn About Teaching Agriculture

12/29/2012 7:00 AM
By Bill Persson New Jersey Correspondent

TABERNACLE, N.J. — Beginning in mid-November, 20 Chinese educators came to New Jersey for a month to tour facilities, attend seminars and discuss the ways America teaches its students of agriculture and horticulture.

“The visit is part of an exchange of educational concepts, techniques and philosophies between agricultural educators in China and the United States,” according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

The group of educators came from the area around Beijing, a city with an estimated population of about 22 million and the capital of the People’s Republic of China.

The delegation, consisting of teachers, professors and administrators, were in New Jersey until mid-December. Their first day began at the New Jersey Public Health, Environmental and Agriculture Laboratory, a facility near Trenton that was built about a year ago and totals about 200,000 square feet.

Nancy Trivette, agricultural education program leader for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, spoke first to those attending. She had been in China last June and had given a daylong talk about New Jersey’s agricultural and vocational education methodology, as well as other programs being employed in the state.

Trivette knew all the participants, having met them during her trip to China and introduced them to Douglas H. Fisher, New Jersey’s secretary of agriculture.

Fisher expressed a certain excitement about “how fast information flows — it changed in just one generation — to now moving at nano-second” speed.

“But still,” he said, “there is something about meeting face to face, which we are doing here today.”

Explaining why New Jersey is a good choice for the educators to learn from, Fisher said, “Even though we are the most densely populated state in the United States, we grow over 100 crop varieties, and we have over 10,000 farms, from one acre to 3,000 acres.”

Ji Li, from the Institute for Vocational and Adult Education at the Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences and the director of the program from China, said, “Our program to train teachers in Beijing began in 2007,” and “this teacher-team is the first to visit the United States in the history of Beijing.”

Her comments were translated by Sharron Ma, who had also helped coordinate the program.

Bill Hlubik, department head at the Middlesex Cooperative Extension office and a Rutgers University faculty member, also welcomed the group. Their schedule had them at several venues associated with Rutgers during the following week.

Carl Schulze Jr., director of the Division of Plant Industry at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, discussed some of the areas his division is involved with.

“We test fertilizers” for nutrient levels “and seed” for germination rates, he told the group. “We have surveillance programs, checking for insects and diseases, in order to protect our farms and forests. And we work closely with the federal government, and with Rutgers University, to make sure our farmers can sell their crops safely around the world.”

Manoel Tamassia, state veterinarian and director of the Division of Animal Health, spoke about the animal health division.

“We test about 25,000 samples per year, all from within the state. We are also able to test for diseases we do not yet have in this country,” Tamassia said. “And we are involved in the humane treatment of livestock. New Jersey is the first state in the nation to have minimum standards for raising livestock. We are also responsible for animals affected by disaster. Right now, we are still dealing with animals without homes because of Hurricane Sandy.”

The division also regulates veterinarians in the state.

After the welcoming remarks, the participants toured the plant and animal laboratories. In the plant lab, participants viewed the polymerase chain reaction machines, which, for one example, can be used to verify that plants sent out to farmers or for export are free of viruses.

The facility has environmental growth chambers, which can mimic environmental conditions existing anywhere in the world. There is also a greenhouse for plant grow-out.

During the tour, Schulze, the lab director, said, “The USDA issues federal regulations, but the states have licensing and quarantine regulations of their own.”

During the animal health lab tour, the educators heard about the process for receiving animals and animal samples for diagnostic testing for bacterial and viral diseases in the biosafety level 3 lab.

Both private sources and government agencies submit samples for testing. Fifteen people in the lab process the 25,000 samples tested each year.

The educators’ monthlong visit took them to high schools, vocational programs and community colleges, and they spent an extended period with programs and facilities associated with Rutgers University.

They also visited Rutgers EcoComplex, Environmental Research and Extension Center in Bordentown, and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture building in Trenton.

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