By Kay Wilson

The country of Ukraine has been called The Bread Basket of the World. Within just a few months, the Russian invasion has decimated the country’s agriculture production from the wheat fields to the storage to the transporting of the harvest. Ukrainians, and indeed the world’s people, may see empty plates at the dinner table due to this aggression.

Roman Grynyshyn, who lives in the Ukraine capital city of Kyiv, is traveling through Nodaway County and the US farm belt to garner support for the farmers of his country.

Grynyshyn is the leader of his company, World to Rebuild Rural Ukraine, which can be accessed at World to Rebuild Rural Ukraine is a charity fundraising project, aimed to help Ukrainian village citizens rebuild their homes and restore the agriculture production after the Russian invasion.

Prior to the war, which began February 24, Grynyshyn worked directly with farmers as a catalyst to learn about current farming practices, much as the Extension does here in the US. Over 3,000 farmers were willing to pay for his services which included farm tours in a variety of countries including the US. He has a degree from a Ukrainian university to teach English and German.

Escaping their home

Grynyshyn, along with his wife, three children, ages six, eight and 12 years, fled their Kyiv suburban condominium that had its roof damaged by shrapnel from nearby Russian shelling. They stood, along with 10 others in his group, at the Ukraine-Poland border for 34 hours before they were allowed to leave the country of war-torn cities and villages as well as farms. In Krakow, Poland, the group stayed with a farmer, who was one of Grynyshyn’s network farmers, the largest sweet corn producer for the grocery market in the region. Grynyshyn, and his immediate family, came to America to share his stories, his vision for the future and request help directly on behalf of the farmers in Ukraine.

Grynyshyn confirmed the pillage and stealing of the Ukrainian farms by the Russian soldiers. He noted they have stolen grain from farmers’ bins, farm equipment from farmers and dealerships as well as tools and even the farm’s dog house. The Russians poisoned one farmer’s sheep herd after they slaughtered and ate the mutton from the prime lambs. The Russians have placed anti-tank mines in the wheat fields, and now the mines are hidden from plain sight due to the growth of the grain. Harvest may not take place. While the explosion may not kill the farm equipment operator, it will disable the equipment and many times leave the operator injured and requiring hospitalization. Many of the fields are littered with missiles.

No planting possible

He said 30-40 percent of the spring crop acres might not be planted and harvesting the winter crops of wheat and canola seed is questionable. The commodities are traditionally sent to the world market through seven different ports, and all of them now are in Russian control. Within some crop totals, the production is normally double the US, which is feared to lead to famine of global proportions.

The international aid that his WRRU hopes to garner is necessary on many fronts. One is due to the financial institutions in Ukraine not being able to loan monies for the rebuild as the farms are in the hot zone of Russian combat. Many times the items of collateral that the farmer has used in the past to secure operating loans are now questionable to the local banker. Last year’s harvest was not able to be marketed creating the much-needed cash for the input of this year’s crop.

Farming in Ukraine is done by corporate farms, 22 percent; large farms being 24,200 acres, 45 percent; and the remainder, 27 to 30 percent, being family farms which are a vital supplier of the country’s potatoes, 90 percent, and dairy, 60 percent, and nearly half of the small grains as well as other products such as fruit, nuts and other vegetables.

In fact, the entire global food supply chain is in jeopardy because of these farmers’ inability to produce. In a typical year, Ukrainian farmers feed 600 million of the world’s population while the US farm production feeds about half that. Without the Ukrainian production of key crops of wheat, corn and oil seeds, the world’s dinner plate may be empty.

Zelenskyy is learning

Much of the economy which Grynyshyn described mirrors the US farm economy of the 1940s. Grynyshyn explained the politics of the Ukrainian people are made up of few who are considered pro-Russian, 10-13 percent, but the majority of the citizenry are pro-European Union and pro-Ukrainian. He said Russian leadership wants the world to believe they see the Ukrainians as their “brothers,” which Grynyshyn says no way. He sees Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine president, as a student who is learning from his mistakes. Mistakes such as his cutting of the past military budget by halting the purchase and production of formidable war equipment and reducing the number of trained soldiers. However, Grynyshyn believes the citizen militia that is fighting in his homeland are winning the battles against the slow-moving Russian forces. He has high hopes that when he and his family return to Ukraine in late summer, the Russian forces will be gone.

Kevin Rosenbohm, a Graham farmer who has a successful soybean seed cleaning business, has taken Grynyshyn to meet with MU food and agricultural policy research institute professor Scott Brown, leaders of Corteva Agriscience, North Kansas City’s food manufacturer Ingredion as well as other media outlets to further Grynyshyn’s outreach.

Grynyshyn concluded his visit at the Nodaway News Leader with a wise saying from his father: “Children should be taught two subjects. One being the military on how to shoot a gun, and the other a history lesson, to know who to shoot.” Grynyshyn adds another subject, agriculture, to feed their neighbors and the world’s hungry.