In a recent review of its seed program in Armenia, the Yerevan office of the Armenian Technology Group, Inc. (ATG) reports that the ATG Seed Multiplication Project has helped wheat growers in 302 villages throughout Armenia and farmers in 24 villages in Karabagh.
Mekhitar Grigorian, an agronomist working at the Ministry of Agriculture in Armenia, remembers the day in the spring of 1992 when the first seeds were planted. “I do not recall if I have told this story to anyone before,” Grigorian said. “It was a cold day. I was with this group of Americans who were carrying sacks of seed and, with their bare hands and shovels, they planted the seed. These group of Americans included the late Dr. Arthur O. Hazarabedian, founder of ATG, Dr. Bob Bushnell, Dr. Leon Garoyan, Dr. Jack Morse, Monte Bell, Don Tounjes, H Sahatdjian, and Roger Benton. I witnessed how they were on their knees working with the soil, while many villagers were standing by and watching them from the sidelines, wondering what were these Americans doing? I could not help myself but join them. As the day was ending, we were continuing to plant the seed; the clouds were getting heavier and darker in the sky….And then it started snowing,” continued Grigorian, now chief Agronomist at ATG offices in Yerevan. “I will never forget that day, and I feel so honored that I was part of those fine people, who cared so much for us and the farmers in Armenia. These may be insignificant names to many, but to me, and to the farmers of Armenia, they are the silent heroes of our times!”
“What a fantastic summary of our long years of effort! I can just see the broad smile that would break upon Art’s face now — and the tears that would well up in his eyes — and then, perhaps, the flash of anger, too, at memories of all the challenges and roadblocks put in our way! He always kept his faith! And truly, I don’t know how we could have done what we did, without all the people who helped, all who volunteered, all who had faith and trust in us, and believed in the importance of Armenia’s survival! What a team effort! What a look back! It’s a fresh reminder never to lose faith in God and the capacities of humanity, no matter how tough things get. We thank all our sponsors, agronomists and veterinarians having had such a big part in the work, for the many years of devotion and passion and endurance through it all!” said Margit Hazarabedian, Ph.D. Corporate Secretary of ATG.
|Villages that ATG Has Helped|
|Name of marz (county)||Number of villages benefiting from the seed program in each region within each marz||Total villages benefiting from the seed program in each marz|
|Aragadzoden||Ashotsk (11), Talin (5), Aparan (5)||21|
|Ararat||Artashat (6), Ararat (18), Masis (16)||40|
|Armavir||Armavir (11), Etchmiadzin (14), Bagramyan (11)||36|
|Geghargounik||Sevan (6), Kerasnaserk (3), Martouin (8), Vardenis (6)||23|
|Kotayk||Hrazdan (12), Kotayk (11), Nairy (7)||30|
|Shirak||Artik (18), Akhourian (22), Ani (6), Amassia (6), Ashotsk (2)||54|
|Lori||Stepanavan (12), Toumanyan (9), Spitak (8), Tashir (6), Gougark (7)||42|
|Tavoush||Shamsadin (10), Noyemberian (2)||12|
|Vayodz Dzor||Vayk (6), Yeghegnadzor (5)||11|
|Syunik||Sissian (15), Goris (16), Kapan (2)||31|
|Artsakh||Askeran (11), Martuni(9), Hatrout (3), Martakert (1)||24|
|Total # of Villages||326|
|Click here for a complete list of villages helped by ATG.|
“I am humbled by the thought and the vision that the founders of ATG had envisioned when they carried sacks of seeds from US to Armenia, and with their own hands, dug the holes in the ground and planted the first seeds of hope and prosperity in the hills of Spitak,” said Varoujan Der Simonian, Executive Director of ATG from Fresno, California, where ATG headquarters is located.
“It is a moving experience to be able to put bread on the Armenian table,” said Nubar Tashjian, JD, President of ATG. “We appreciate every group and individual who, over the years, stood by us and helped us achieve this milestone.”
Funded by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Services, Food for Progress, the Lincy Foundation, the Garabedian Foundation, and hundreds of other individuals and organizations, the ATG Seed Multiplication Project is having a significant impact on the economic development of Armenia. In addition to serving direct and immediate humanitarian needs, the main purpose of the project has been to provide long-term sustainable economic development. The program focused on increasing farm production, and creating jobs and generating income in the small and mid-size farm operations in rural Armenia.
“ATG’s mission is a partnership of working together with the farmers in Armenia for the future of Armenia and its children,” said Dr. Hagop Tookoian, ATG Financial Officer.
“We are pleased to see that our efforts of working from the ground up are producing results,” said Dr. James Reynolds, Vice President of ATG. “ATG believes that a strong private farming sector is the foundation of a healthy free market economy.”
The aforementioned number of villages reported does not include the beneficiaries of the other activities that ATG has undertaken over the past 17 years. The direct humanitarian distribution of assorted vegetable and corn seed valued over $10 million dollars was obtained through the United Armenian Fund (UAF) for Armenia.
“Harut Sassounian, the people at UAF and the Lincy Foundation, have been among our stalwarts. Their support has meant so much to ATG over the years! I extend my personal thanks and, once more, on behalf of Art’s memory. To the very end, Art never failed to have the highest appreciation and respect for UAF’s far-reaching work, co-operative spirit, and vision,” said Dr. Margit Hazarabedian.
During the 1994-96 growing season alone, ATG projects reached 5,029 farmers by providing wheat seed, farm equipment and farm input through the USAID-funded project.
Furthermore, during the Winter Wheat 2000 Emergency Assistance program, ATG and its seed producers in Armenia supplied 12,074 farm families with locally generated wheat seed for planting. That project was partly funded by the US Embassy in Armenia.
ATG also provided special assistance to the Armenian Veterinary Industry and local veterinarians through veterinary medicine and supplies. From 1990 to 1998, through private contributions, ATG assistance included animal artificial insemination, vaccination against animal-borne diseases such as foot and mouth, brucellosis, salmonella, anthrax and rabies.
Through the efforts of ATG’s annual fund-raising Bike-a-Thon, four milk-cooling refrigeration tanks, each with a 1000-gallon capacity, were purchased and supplied from to four villages in Armenia. “The volunteer bike riders thank all our sponsors, and in particular Mr. Jack Sarkis Torosian, Mr. & Mrs. George Atashkarian, Mr. & Mrs. Mesrob Chelebian, who supported us in our efforts to help us achieve our goal,” said Vatche Soghomonian, volunteer chair of the ATG Bike-a-Thon. The villagers will use the tanks to store and preserve their milk from spoiling, and enable them to market it to processors and generate additional income.
In yet another project, in 1999, ATG began undertaking the rejuvenation of the wine grape industry in Armenia and Karabagh. The wine grape nursery in Kheramort village is growing steadily. Besides creating jobs and generating income to over 50 families in the village, the nursery has become the basis for revitalization of the centuries old grape and wine industries in Artsakh. Every year new farmers are planting young vines and rejuvenating their vineyards. Thus far, the project has reached 12 villages in the region and continues to expand. ATG’s grape nursery was the featured articles in June 15, 2005 issue of the Wine Spectator Magazine.
ATG’s latest accomplishment was in September 2006, when during the second International Agro-Forum held in Yerevan, the government of Armenia honored ATG seed grower Hovhanness Gaboyan with a Gold Medal for the highest achievement in agricultural development. It was the second time in two years that ATG was awarded this distinction. During his recent visit to Gaboyan’s fields, Minister of Agriculture Davit Lokiyan praised ATG’s work, and expressed that he was impressed with the methodical research and the increase in wheat production resulting from ATG’s wheat seed program in Armenia.
“That Armenia’s unheralded farmers managed — during the most dire times and with the most modest equipment — to produce enough seed, in variety, to alleviate the food needs of their nation, is truly a result of uncommon determination. It is a miracle of tenacity; a gift of love easily taken for granted when there is bread on the table. Little can describe what we, at ATG, feel when witnessing the recognition of an individual farmer in particular, or watching the gradual development of Armenia’s agricultural economy in general,” said Hazarabedian. “I recall the words of my dear husband Art upon his return home from one of his early trips to Armenia’s farmlands with our volunteer contingents. Suppressing tears, he expressed the memory of what would always move his heart and soul, and what would motivate everyone at ATG: ‘We saw hope and despair on their faces at the same time.’ With every success, hope grows, despair declines. As my husband would be, I know, I am proud of all hard-won achievements in Armenia’s agricultural sector, and happy in every single appreciation bestowed.”