Dr. Robin G. Brumfield, a Professor and Extension Specialist in Farm Management in The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, visited Turkey to lead a three week Study Abroad Program for four undergraduate students and one graduate student from Rutgers University to the farming village of Boztepe, Turkey in May 2013.
This Study Abroad program expanded on Suzanne’s Project, a pre-existing partnership between Rutgers University, Akdeniz University, and the Provincial Directorate of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, which was launched in Antalya, Turkey in 2011. The goals of Suzanne’s Project are to train Turkish women farmers on the best practices, tools, and basic skills necessary for them to sustain and scale profitable agricultural businesses within the local context.
The Empowering Turkish Women Farmers Program was a new offering in the growing list of summer International Service Learning Programs through the Rutgers Study Abroad Program. The program was conducted in partnership with Akdeniz University in Antalya. This Service Learning Project was coordinated with Dr. Burhan Özkan, Advisor to University President; Coordinator, Bologna Process Coordination Office and Professor of Agricultural Economics at Akdeniz University in Antalya, Turkey. Adnan Turgut, Professor, School of Physical Education and Sport, Akdeniz University helped locate host families for the Rutgers University students staying in Boztepe.
Boztepe, Turkey is a small farming village with a population of roughly 5,000. Greenhouse vegetables, citrus, cotton, sesame, wheat, and corn are the main crops that are exported to foreign markets. Boztepe is less than 20 miles away from Antalya, a city of one million people and home to Akdeniz University, a major university with a large college of agriculture. Antalya is situated on the Mediterranean Sea and is a major tourist destination in Europe.
The overall learning experience was comprised of four main parts:
1) A structured academic component both in country and prior to departure. This consisted of pre-departure background of the goals and purpose of Suzanne's Project, an introduction to basic farm management and agriculture, followed in country by regular lectures and group discussions. Assessments included required blog posts, a case study of a family farm, and regular participation in service projects.
2) The service portion of the program consisted primarily of observing and participating in Suzanne's Project workshops and developing a case study to be used in future Suzanne's Project classes. There were opportunities to assist host families on their farms to gain a sense of what life is like in a small, rural, agricultural village.
3) Homestays. During their time in Boztepe, students stay in the home of a local family. This was designed to give students full immersion in the cultural habits and daily routines of the women in the village and their families, and to facilitate greater cross-cultural interaction through less didactic forms of educational and personal enrichment. This was also an integral part of the global learning experience.
4) Guided excursions to historical and cultural sites of interest. These group trips took place mostly on weekends. The majority of this cultural component took place on the final weekend in Istanbul. In addition to mandatory cultural excursions, there were also be a few recreational trips arranged in and around Antalya, in which students could choose to participate. These included a trip with host families to the seaside and a visit with the host mothers and other village women to a have a famous Turkish bath.
Read the entire blog entries at http://suzannesprojectinboztepe.weebly.com/
“It has given me a better sense of direction in terms of where I want to concentrate in the field of international relations. Back in the US, I feel that I am now equipped with a fresh and different perspective on certain global affairs that I'll be able to use as I study and analyze politics both in the US and around the world. This is something that really excites me.”
Sara Neiheser, Political Science and German Major
“Experiencing daily life with a family allowed me to understand the routine of a woman farmer and how hard she works from the time that she gets up to the time that her family goes to sleep. When I think about what was accomplished in the village of Boztepe, I always appreciate that I had an extremely positive experience which will stay in my mind forever.”
Stephanie Rossi, Plant Biotechnology Major
“When I look back on this entire trip what sticks out most in my mind is that I was able to make a connection with people that I could not even understand. I am amazed at how secondary language seemed at some moments when interacting with the villagers and our host families.”
Rashmi Singh, English and Environmental Policy Major
“Dr. Robin Brumfield stressed the information we pass on to the women must be practical, material and accessible. For an International Service Learning Project like this one, practical knowledge and the development of physical skills lie at the center of our responsibilities.”
Kiyanna Stewart, Women's and Gender Studies
“The service project allowed me to see actual changes in my host family's environment. It was fascinating to see firsthand how the power of education could improve the daily lives of the villagers.”
Meryem Uzumcu, Planning and Public Policy,
Women and Gender Studies Graduate
This partnership has advanced the vision of Rutgers University’s “Jersey Roots, Global Reach” initiative; an initiative devoted to communicating the “distinct strengths in the Garden State and across the globe.”