Growing up in rural Kenya, Lavendar Otieno saw first-hand the desperate need to explore modern technologies that would improve agricultural production.
“In my country, soil conditions, weather extremes, and climate change have presented costly challenges for farmers and food security,” Lavendar shared. “In the United States, this does not seem to be a challenge because of the technologies used. Exploring agriculture in the United States will allow me to learn for my country.”
Upon graduating from the University of Nairobi, Lavendar eagerly pursued practical training experiences to understand the entire farm-to-fork process better. Knowing CAEP would provide opportunities and training to make her a well-rounded agriculturalist, she applied with great enthusiasm and is now training at Fillmore Greenhouses in Portageville, New York.
“I am learning a lot, training with different people in terms of culture and worldview,” Lavender shared. “I have had to compromise on a few social things so that I can be able to learn from my friends. However, there are some universal virtues that we all agree on, and that’s what makes us human. I have made friends from around the world, gained a global perspective on food security (my passion), and experienced new places and cultures. This program has also helped me develop valued skills such as intercultural communication, adaptability, and problem-solving.”
From riding a rollercoaster at Coney Island in New York to swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, Lavender has had many cultural experiences so far. Conquering public transportation, such as trains and subways, has been another highlight of her journey. She also enjoyed the skyline of New York City by helicopter, exploring beautiful State Parks, and meeting many new friends from different cultures.
Lavender stressed how she appreciated the security and freedom in the United States. “I can go anywhere, anytime, without worrying about how secure I am. I have learned a lot about independence and how everyone in the United States is in control of their own lives. America is the land of opportunities.
I have also learned about the importance of diversity in agriculture, resulting in an abundance of food choices at the grocery store. Diversity also contributes to an affordable food supply. I want to propose this idea to my community in Kenya, which heavily relies on corn as a staple food. American agriculture is an industry and a lifestyle since most farms are family-owned. I want to encourage more people, especially the youth, to venture into agriculture since it is an opportunity to provide life’s most basic necessities.”
When asked what she would tell future participants about her program and CAEP, Lavendar replied, “they are right on track, they’ll be more open-minded about life, and they’ll get to develop a deep appreciation for their country. I highly recommend the CAEP program.”