Anna Snider’s recent volunteer work has taken her to Nigeria, Bangladesh, and beyond, but her love of horticulture and farming started in Wisconsin. She grew up in a rural area outside of Fond du Lac, where she served as president of the local FFA chapter and spent most of her time outside — either in the garden or at her uncle’s and grandparents’ farms.
At UW–Madison, Snider immersed herself in her horticulture major. She became president of the university’s Horticulture Society and organized its first tour of Costa Rica with the help of faculty mentor Jim Nienhuis PhD’82. That trip marked the first of many related to the world of international agriculture. As a volunteer with the USAID-funded Winrock International Farmer-to-Farmer program, she travels to developing countries all over the world to provide technical assistance for farmers, farmers’ organizations, and agribusinesses.
How did you become interested in working in agriculture and Farmer-to-Farmer learning?
After my undergraduate degree, I worked for horticulture professor Jiwan Palta, and that was my first job with international experience. I managed projects in Wisconsin, California, Ecuador, and Florida, and it prepared me for international work. During my master’s degree work, I became fascinated with the social issues that affect agriculture and food security in developing countries. I wanted to understand the reality in these countries, including how agribusinesses and consumers in developed countries can have a positive influence on environmental and social conditions. When I started working for Cornell Cooperative Extension, I felt that there was really a lack of experience in sustainable agriculture in many places, and I wanted to help.
What have you done on your trips with the organization?
My earlier projects focused mainly on sustainable production practices and composting. Those projects were in Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, and Bangladesh. In Nigeria and Senegal, I worked with the leaders of farmers’ organizations on strategic planning, leadership, and engaging women and youth in entrepreneurship. Farmers’ organizations in these countries rely heavily on funding from the government or support from nonprofit organizations, and we work together to figure out how they can become more self-reliant and resilient.
What do you like best about the work?
I love working with farmers to solve problems. I also love that it gives you opportunities to see places, interact with locals, and understand the country in a way that you never could if you were just traveling. For example, in Senegal, I was invited to the hut of the village chief to discuss challenges and concerns with the administrative council of the local banana cooperative. The group was quite frank about the problems of trust or conflict among the members and how they deal with that according to their cultural traditions of arbitration with tribal elders. It was fascinating.
Farmer-to-Farmer is always looking for volunteers. Visit winrock.org to find opportunities.