It used to take Alex Oronov 24 hours of flight time to shop for North Dakota farm machinery. Now it takes him less than an hour.
Oronov is the head of a Ukrainian agribusiness that is operating a "model farm" that serves as a dealer location for North Dakota farm equipment, supplies and expertise. The farm is 50 miles southeast of Kiev, the capital, on farmland that is similar to the fertile Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota.
"It's the Red River Valley on steroids," Susan Geib, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office, said Friday at a news conference to promote the project.
Plans are for North Dakota businesses to work with the state's Trade Office and Oronov's company, Ukrainian Agriculture AB, to develop marketing events aimed at drawing prospective buyers from throughout Ukraine. The marriage began when Oronov and other agriculture leaders from the Ukraine started attending an annual farm show in Fargo.
"We decided, 'How about we have a little, if I may say so, Fargo back in the Ukraine?'" Oronov said.
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, declared its independence in 1991. It has made the transition from collective farms to corporate and private operations, but is saddled with outdated equipment and technology.
The country's primary crops are wheat, corn, barley and soybeans, grown on about 20,000 farms that range in size from about 1,000 acres to 50,000 acres.
"All of those people are struggling trying to find the right machinery, the right technology, the rights seeds, the right fertilizer," said Sergiy Polovenko, a North Dakota Trade Office representative in Kiev.
The project should help open markets and "feed the world," said Dave Morken, manager of a Red River Valley seed company.
"Alex and I, we've been arguing and bantering for the better part of a year here to make this thing work," Morken said, smiling. "If Alex can get this to work, it's going to make agriculture in the Ukraine much more successful and we hope to be a part of that."
Said Oronov, "We should deserve in the Ukraine the same beautiful results you have right here."