AUKSUCIAI PROJECT” PROGRESS REPORT

Presented Feb. 27, 2000 by Vytautas J. Sliupas, P.E. during the VASARIO 16 COMMEMORATION in San Francisco, CA.
Free transtalion from the Lithuanian language in which this report was delivered

Dear Lithuanian-Americans and their Friends:

Just 10 days ago - on February 16th - I was still in Vilnius, Lithuania, where I spent four weeks mostly on the Auksuciai (Agricultural Teaching & Demonstration and Forest Ecological Management) Project matters.

About our accomplishments during 1999 you can read in our Annual Report which I will distribute to you right after my brief verbal presentation. I will not repeat them here but will bring you up to date on what was accomplished during the first two months of this year 2000.

First, we hired a project manager: 27 yr. old Raigedas Karosas, son of a Lithuanian farmer from Anyksciai area. He is experienced in farm and forest work, and speaks English. (He graduated from an electricians school, then worked 5 yr. in forests, 4 mo. on a farm in England, then 18 mo. on a large commercial farm in Oregon, USA). Has excellent recommendations which I checked and confirmed personally. We first made contact with him in the USA through a mutual friend Vilius Zalpys, then interviewed and hired Raigedas in Lithuania.

Second, we completed negotiations with a local Kursenai contractor to build our first building at the Center on the foundations poured last Fall. This will be the house for our new Manager. It will be a rustic log house on the exterior, but with modern Western interiors. The logs are from our own forest; they have been cut and transported to a lumber mill, then they will be dried in a kiln.

Ms. Rasa Budryte, the Siauliai rajonas architect, is now finalizing plans for the remaining buildings of the Center.

We are happy that underground drains (as all our fields have underground drainage) were cleaned by the Siauliai rajonas crews and late last Fall the Siauliai administration finally completed a promised ½ mile long 2-lane road right to the manager’s house. It is hoped that now a promised electrical transmission line will also be constructed. This is evidence of a two-way cooperation, which developed rather recently.

We have a slight problem: wild boars came out of the forest and damaged some of the winter crops. Also the beavers that live in our forests keep on building their dams (as they are supposed to in the wild!) and are flooding the low-lying fields. However, that is not an insurmountable problem - the friendly beavers will have to be moved elsewhere.

The government Consultative Service is giving us advice on what crops are best to plant, however, as of the end of February they were unable to tell us re. spring planting, because the Central Government of Lithuania had not published a list of crops they will purchase this year and the prices they will pay. There is no private Farm Cooperative system around, thus farmers still depend heavily on the government purchases. We are hoping to organize a local farmer’s cooperative to relieve this pressure.

Several of you have asked me, why are we creating this Center for helping small-scale farmers? You say, the future of Europe’s and Lithuania’s agriculture is in large farms! I do agree with this last statement for the long run, but please do tell me what is to be done today with some 250,000 small-scale farmers who live on their lands?! They own from a few to a dozen or so hectares of land, have no tractors, receive very little if any help from the government, and as a result many become desperate and turn to alcoholism. We just simply cannot walk away from them. They are human beings who need help TODAY.

Others of you are telling me that Lithuania has excellent agricultural research facilities and institutes. Why can’t these small farmers get all their advice from them? The answer is quite simple. The agricultural institutes and their research is geared toward large farms and the people who can afford going there and reading all kinds of scientific reports. But can you imagine a small, poor, intimidated farmer going to seek help from a professor or a government bureaucrat? No one will even talk to the semi-literate farmers. And if they get some technical reports, will they understand them? Not very likely.

Our Center’s purpose is to fill this gap, this existing vacuum. We want to provide to them something similar to what we call in America - “Farmers Advisory Service”. I should also mention to you that we are not competing with the established Lithuanian agro schools. Not at all, we cooperate with the Agricultural University, the Dotnuva Agric. Academy and the nearby Agricultural School in Gruzdziai (which now experiments by planting seedlings of asparagus from seeds given them by us. New types of other seeds will be provided to them for the spring experimenting).

For all these activities, especially now, we NEED MONEY. As you know, we have created a not-for-profit organization, together with volunteers from the Univ. of California/Davis and the So.West Texas Univ./San Marcos. As a rule, Americans of non-Lithuanian descent are more generous, more enthusiastic and public spirited, than the Lithuanian-Americans, who are quite skeptical when it comes to charitable giving. I believe this should be the other way around. Hardships faced by farmers back in Lithuania should be of greatest concern to us the Lithuanian-Americans.

Fortunately, there are heart rendering exceptions and I want to thank those of you here today who have contributed to this worthy cause. I hope that in the near future many more of you living in the San Francisco area and beyond will join us.

Permit me to boast a little. During the first year of our activity very few kind souls contributed to our effort. The second year, when people started to realize that we meant honest business, many more generous supporters joined in. And now, the start of our third year, seems to bode well. As an example, just during the past week, we received two checks for $25 each, one for $50, one for $100, two for $300, and yesterday we received from Mrs. Grazina Liautaud of Chicago a very generous check of $10,000. And today, just before coming to this meeting, found a note in my e-mail from Mr. & Mrs. Algis and Angele Raulinaitis of Los Angeles saying: “Vytautai, we just mailed you our first $1000 contribution to the Auksuciai project…”

It is very gratifying to see people contributing toward the realization of the Center which eventually will cost over $1-million. And believe you me, it is extremely difficult to write letters or to stand in front of you asking for contributions.

I am ending my brief report to you with hope that you all from the S.F. area and from other places will open your hearts and will send generous checks to the not-for-profit:

AUKSUCIAI FOUNDATION
2907 Frontera Way
Burlingame, CA 94010 USA
E-MAIL
VISIT OUR INTERNET WEB-SITE

We are a registered US Corporation, and your donations are deductible from the US Federal income taxes.

Thanks to all of you.


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