By: Mollie Lastovica
Jim Mazurkiewicz, Ph.D., Leadership Program Director for the Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership program, has been fostering relationships with dignitaries in Poland for more than a decade.
On Sept. 24. Mazurkiewicz was recognized for his contributions when he was awarded the Polish Medal of Honor from the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region.
His most recent collaboration, a business and academic trip to the country in September, has opened doors to many future collaborative projects between the European country and Texas A&M University.
“My professional relationship with Poland developed through the international study abroad opportunity TALL offers to each of its classes,” Mazurkiewicz said. “My initial contact was with Director of the Polish 4-H Foundation, Kasia Boczek, who helped us participate in this international experience in both 2002 and 2010.”
It was during the 2010 visit that Mazurkiewicz proposed the idea of a Polish delegation visiting Texas to see the state’s agricultural production. In Feb. 2011, 27 delegates came to the state representing the National Association of Cereal Producers of Poland and the Agricultural Business Association of Poland.
Working with sponsors such as Monsanto, Bayer Crop Sciences, the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Mazurkiewicz exposed the delegation to a wide variety of Texas agricultural practices in both the gulf coast and panhandle regions.
“As a result of that, a friendship was formed with the key agricultural figures of Poland,” Mazurkiewicz said. “These are the movers and shakers and leading agricultural producers and decision makers of their country.”
A few of those delegates invited Mazurkiewicz and Director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research Craig Nessler, Ph.D., to attend the Polish National Corn Days event in Oct. 2011. During this trip, Mazurkiewicz made contact with the governor of the Torun region.
“It was a successful trip and many contacts were made. We were educated on how progressive, modern and proactive Poland has become,” Mazurkiewicz said. “Poland is the most pro-American country with the fastest growing economy in Europe. The Polish farmer is progressive and very open to research and technology of the 21st century.”
After years of fostering relationships with various political and agricultural leaders of Poland, Mazurkiewicz was called upon in March 2012 to host five governors and national administrators in the state of Texas in conjunction with their visit to the nation through the United States State Department.
“I was asked to set up a program showcasing how agriculture and the oil/gas industries work in tandem and provide consumers with confidence that it is environmentally safe to do so,” Mazurkiewicz said. “This was easy to do as these are the two leading industries in the state of Texas which makes up the 14th largest economy in the world. In two days I befriended five governors of Poland who wrote me to say that their two days in Texas were more productive in providing education and research then the remainder of their trip.”
That led to Mazurkiewicz’ most recent endeavor, the 16-day business and academic trip in Sept. His delegation consisted of Texas Senator Glenn Hegar, Tarleton State University Dean of Agriculture, Don Cawthorn, Ph.D., and Texas agricultural industry professionals, Terry Hlavinka, Jim Ellison, P.J. Ellison-Kalil, Chad Elkins and J.J. Barto.
The group visited seven states, they were hosted by five governors and universities, met five regional agriculture ministers, visited with the Agriculture Minister of Poland in Warsaw and the President of the National Chamber of Commerce in Warsaw. While there, they were interviewed by Polish national television stations, attended the largest agriculture equipment show in Europe and toured many Polish farms, among other activities.
To his surprise, Mazurkiewicz was also recognized with the Medal of Honor on this trip.
“There is no doubt that this was the opportunity of a lifetime and the beginning of significant cooperation between Texas and Poland,” Mazurkiewicz said.
Since their return, Mazurkiewicz and many of his colleagues have been working on a number of projects with Poland including a Junior Master Gardener program, young farmer exchange, study abroad opportunities and a Polish exchange for 4-H youth. His leadership in regard to cross-cultural collaborations align with the TALL program’s dedication to innovative agriculture.
“As we move forward, TALL is positioned to provide leadership and support on the global stage,” Mazurkiewicz said. “We continue to talk about global markets, international competition and world peace and I can think of no greater opportunity than to begin a relationship in Central Europe with pro-American allies. As you know, success stimulates success and we have an opportunity to highlight TALL on a world stage.”