2014 will see a new director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, but outgoing director Gina Sheets has a new opportunity. She will be taking Indiana agriculture to Liberia. For the past year, Sheet’s husband has been working in the African nation of Liberia, one of the poorest nations in the world. Sheets told HAT she leaves in January to join her husband on a unique venture to bring agriculture to the people of Liberia, “Where we will be living in Liberia, we will have no electricity, no running water. The median age in this country is 18 years of age, so we go to extend agricultural education and entrepreneurial development to the people of Liberia.”
Liberia is about the size of Ohio with a population of about 4.2 million people, but civil war has decimated the country. Ninety percent of the food is imported, so Sheets will be showing the people how to grow their own food, “We are already growing some very typical row crops like Boone County White Corn, red beans, soybeans, fruits, vegetables, okra, and eggplant.” She stated there are a variety of crops that can grow in this nation.
Sheets said the next step is to show the Liberians how to preserve the food they produce. The Indiana Ag Leadership program will be helping in this effort. “Thanks to Indiana’s AgriInstitute Class 15. They will be coming over later in 2014 and teaching food preservation.” Already canning equipment and over 2000 canning jars have been shipped to Liberia.
Sheets and her husband will also be teaching an agricultural curriculum to begin to train the first group of ag leaders in the nation at a college in Liberia. Purdue University will also be providing some resources in this noble effort.