Montana State University

MSU expert helps Croatian farmers recover from war

January 10, 2005 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


Marty Frick (MSU photo by Erin Raley).   High-Res Available

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Croatian farmers have been coming to Montana State University since 1998 to learn how to set up agricultural cooperatives.

Now Marty Frick, associate professor of agricultural education at MSU, will spend six months in Croatia.

The 2004-2005 Fulbright Scholar who has been to Croatia before and is trying to help the country recover from its 1991-1995 war with Serbia will teach cooperative business courses at the University of Zagreb. His curriculum -- already translated into Croatian and posted on a Web site -- explains how to set up western-style cooperatives for meat products, livestock, milk and honey.

Frick will be a visiting professor at the University of Osijek in eastern Slavonia, as well. He will also spend half his time conducting research for a how-to book he plans to write on cooperatives.

Croatia is surrounded by several nations, including Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Bosnia. Seven times smaller than Montana, the country's main crops are olives, corn, soybeans and apples. Much of its infrastructure was obliterated during its war for independence, however. The nation that once could feed 15 million people now has trouble feeding its own four million people. Twenty thousand Croatians died in the war. More than 250,000 were displaced.

Croatian farmers are looking to MSU for a new way to quickly and efficiently market their livestock and produce, Frick said.

"The best thing they can do, since they don't have much capital, is to come together and market their products through a cooperative rather than try to do it on their own," said Frick whose grandparents came from the region where he is heading.

Doug Bishop, an MSU professor emeritus who traveled to Croatia in 2002 with Frick, said Croatian farmers worked as individuals and sold their products on their own before the war.

Frick said the government gave farmers the right to form cooperatives in 1991, but it has not provided the support they need to progress.

"History has shown that when agricultural cooperatives are operated effectively, farmer/members will pay lower prices for farm inputs and receive higher prices for the products they sell," Frick wrote in his Fulbright application.

"The past history of cooperatives in Croatia and the manner in which they have been managed has resulted in a lack of commitment to the producer-owned cooperative concept within a free market society," he continued. "One of USAID's major objectives for Croatia is the growth of a dynamic and competitive private sector."

Frick and Bishop both have traveled widely because of their work on agricultural cooperatives. Croatia may have heard of MSU by word of mouth and through a group called Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance, Bishop said.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with additional funding from participating governments and host institutions.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu