A letter from a farmer in Ukraine: ‘This is my plea’

Kornelis Keese Huizinga , 02/03/2022

Russian forces attack the Ukraine capital Kyiv. Photo: Lesia Vasylenko, Ukraine MP

WHEN I became a farmer, I knew that I’d have to wage a figurative war on the traditional foes of food production: pests, weeds, and disease.

I didn’t expect to find myself in an actual war zone with a lethal enemy.

Yet that’s what happened when Russia invaded Ukraine, the place where I grow crops and raise livestock.

My family and I live and farm close to the centre of the country, a bit north of the city of Uman, a specific target of Russian assaults because of its ammunition depots. As the bombs dropped on Thursday, the windows and doors of my house rattled. We saw smoke rise in the distance. We heard the roar of rockets overhead.

My wife and kids have fled our farm, seeking safety near the border with Romania. I’ve stayed behind on the farm. They already made it into Romania and are staying at a friend’s place.

As I write, things are quiet. I don’t expect them to remain that way. The violence could erupt again at any moment. At the moment of this correction there are some explosions in Uman.

This is my plea, from a humble farmer in Ukraine to the people of the world: Please ask your governments to stop this reckless war, launched by that cruel and power-hungry authoritarian, Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine did nothing to deserve this fate. Since the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, we have strived to live in peace and harmony with the wider community of nations. We have sought to develop a civilised democracy. Although we have a long way to go, we have made big progress.

I’ve tried to do my part. As a farmer, of course, I’m far removed from the halls of power. I don’t practice statesmanship or conduct diplomacy.

In an agricultural nation like Ukraine, however, my job is to feed my country and the world.

On our farm, we milk 2000 dairy cows every day. In our fields we grow wheat, barley, canola, and more. It may be winter, but the fertilising season has started, as we apply nitrogen to our fields. Planting usually begins by the end of March or the beginning of April.

I don’t know if any of this will be possible this year. I don’t know what the next hour holds for us, let alone tomorrow or next week or next month.

I’m already wondering how we’ll feed our cows. We have food on hand, but we may have to weaken our feed ratio so that our supplies last longer. This will lower our output.

The future may be uncertain, but I know this much: If Ukrainian farmers like me can’t get to work, our crisis will become unbearably worse.

We’re resilient, and we know how to get through hard times, such as droughts and other weather challenges. Like the rest of the world, we’re now emerging from a pandemic that disrupted labor markets and supply chains.

Yet war poses a unique threat. Reports about casualties are pouring in. The deaths could soar as Russians drive their tanks into our cities. The military conflict will shatter the lives of ordinary citizens. The messages I get from other farmers in the east and south are that the Russians drive around the bigger cities or encircle them.

We’re likely to face a humanitarian crisis as people flee the destruction. Refugees will need shelter and food. There’s no guarantee they’ll get it. First primitive refugee camps on the western borders are being set up at the moment of writing.

History warns us about one horrible possibility. In the 1930s, Ukraine suffered from the Holodomor, which in the Ukrainian language means “death by hunger”. Back then, Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin tried to crush an independence movement by inflicting a manmade famine on Ukraine. Millions died in what today many people regard as act of genocide.

Nobody in Ukraine ever should starve. We are an agricultural breadbasket. We have more arable land than any other European country. We are the world’s top exporter of sunflower and sunflower oil. We are the world’s second largest producer of barley, its third largest producer of corn, and a global leader as a producer of potatoes.

Ukraine can meet the food needs of 600 million people, according to one estimate. That’s pretty good for a nation of 44 million people and about 35,000 farms.

If we drop out of the global market, food prices will rise everywhere. Price inflation is already hurting ordinary consumers around the world, but now it will worsen.

This means that Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine is not only Ukraine’s problem. It’s a threat to everyone on the planet. Russia has attacked us all.

Will you stand with Ukraine in our moment of need?

Kornelis “Kees” Huizinga has farmed in Mankivka Rayon, Cherkasy Oblast in central Ukraine for 20 years. The operation grows onions, carrots, wheat, barley, canola, sugar beets, corn, sunflowers and navy beans and has a modern dairy farm. He is a member of the Global Farmer Network. This article was originally published on the Global Farmer Network website and is republished here with permission. To view the original article click here.

Video interview with Mr Huizinga recorded on Tuesday, March 1:


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  1. haynes mcneill, 11/03/2022

    My wife and friends pray for Ukrainian people daily and are upset as World does not stop this evil event. It is never good to let a bad animal survive on your property or as a trader to keep a bad position in the market. I would tell you to keep your financial exposure as small as possible as Putin may take all assets in Ukraine. Question who owns the land you farm? Good luck and many prayers to you and all. Also, in my oyunger days I was a farmer in southwest Tn.

  2. Sue Gillespie, 11/03/2022

    Support of farmers in the Ukrain is vital. Well done and please look after yourself and your livestock as best to can. Hope your family is safe somewhere.

  3. James, 10/03/2022

    May God protect you and your family, Kees. It is tragic what is happening. My heart aches for your family and all the others torn apart by this aggression. The Ukrainian people certainly did nothing to deserve it, as is usually the case when war strikes.

  4. PETER EDWARD BROWN, 09/03/2022

    nato No Action Talk Only

  5. Ken Hammer, 09/03/2022

    I absolutely agree with all the comments I have read on here, Putin is a meglomaniac that needs to be stopped now before he does what Hitler did in 39. Wake up world it is almost exactly what happened then and Putin is as big a liar as he was, we also do not need to lose 100s of thousands of our young people to another maniac that wants world power. God be with you farmers are the backbone of the world.

  6. Betty J Decker, 07/03/2022

    We are praying we can wake up our President Biden to bring in our forces to help you. Biden appears to have a yellow stripe up his back but will continue pushing for you great people over there

  7. Jane Hopkins, 06/03/2022

    I feel your pain. We are farmers although retired now. I have never been in a war although South Africa came close to it. so I cannot imagine what you are going through. Our thoughts are with you and we hope and pray for peace in you wonderful beloved country.

  8. Deb, 06/03/2022

    Your productivity may be one reason you are being attacked. Russia would then control an enormous supply of food – for themselves or to hold those who normally buy that food, to ransom! Hopefully, in the short term, the Russians will spare the animals and crops, hoping to take over them for their own use, but in the meantime, it is hoped that the Russians are stopped and don’t take control at all. I feel so heartbroken for you. At least your family is somewhere safer, but you must be so concerned about the welfare of your 2000 dairy cows.

  9. Jean tupechka, 06/03/2022

    How terrible!! Trudeau and Bidin don’t have a backbone, better I guess to sit back and watch democracy be taken over by a monster. Ukraine we are praying for you all.

  10. Mair, 06/03/2022

    We stand with Ukraine . Surely there must be a way to stop mad Putin. We all watch helplessly as the Ukraine is being annihilated. We can help with money, food, clothes etc but Putin needs to be stopped. Hell is waiting for him. God save Ukraine and the world from this monster . Our prayers are with you all. 🙏

  11. Dina Clark, 06/03/2022

    Please help

  12. patricia LaRocque, 06/03/2022

    What a powerful letter to the world…I look at the beautiful farm land we have in Canada not to mention in my area where there are beautiful farms through out and cant imagine what and how you worry about your industry , country. and family …….The world is watching closely and we wish you safe and peaceful time ahead.

  13. Rob, 06/03/2022

    Putin feeding his ego will end up starving many. A free farmer will endure many hardships to grow food, I wonder if Russian farmers do that. Kees we support you even though we can’t seem to do much for you.

  14. Judy Wesolowski, 05/03/2022

    I cry with you 😂
    Every act of violence against you is also against every kind caring loving person in the World
    We only have one HOME 🌎💓🌏
    We must stop this lunacy this terrible destructive behaviour
    In Ukraine and everywhere 💞

  15. Joyce Sunter, 05/03/2022

    We farm in England UK, we are all under pressure to grow wild flowers and trees, very worrying when there could be Universal food shortages, we are an island and already over populated.

  16. Helyne, 05/03/2022

    I ask all countries to join t
    he fight with these brave people, yes I know we all worry about ww3. But if ww2 had been stopped earlier it would not had been ww2. Australia please listen I am 4 gen Australian please join the world and stop this madman .

  17. Pamela Schultz, 05/03/2022

    My great grandfather Metro fled from similar oppression. Here in Saskatchewan we also feed the world. And are faced with volatile markets and uncertain circumstances this year. But we have no comphrension of what you are facing now. I cannot imagine how difficult your situation is at present. I hope you and your family remain safe. We continue to lobby our government to do what is right for the people of the Ukraine.

  18. heidi, 05/03/2022

    I pray every moment of each day there is a way to save you all. this unstable evil man is committing war crimes and genocide on you courageous wonderful people. I pray for a a miracle that this is stopped. we are asking our leaders in America to help. i am sooo sorry they did not get weapons and all that you need sooner. The world is praying. Love is crossing all boundaries to you.

  19. Seamus Campbell, 05/03/2022

    I agree with this farmer Putin is nothing but a bully and should be stopped in his tracks
    He’s not only holding Ukraine to ransom but the entire planet

  20. Alison Hawkins, 04/03/2022

    We have battled droughts, floods and bush-fires while looking after our animals. Everything revolves around the animals, pastures, hay, breeding, our life. Our thoughts are with you and the hope that the evil little man on a power trip will be eliminated.

  21. Ian Pattison, 04/03/2022

    I whole heartedly agree with this article; l am devastated at the unnecessary violence and destruction this monster has caused. I call on every government to abolish him as soon as possible.

  22. carol Clemson, 03/03/2022

    Stay strong and putin has met the Ukrainian people who will fight with all their strength to save their land and freedoms…

  23. Peter Dunn, 02/03/2022

    On the other side of the globe and in a peaceful, democratic country, the uncertainty, fear and despair which Ukraine farmers like ‘Kees’ must be feeling is unimaginable. Putting aside the cropping demands, the milking and feeding of 2000 cows is no small exercise, and the thought of having to do this with tanks and various military assets rolling through fences and paddocks is horrific. May they stay safe.
    Looking at the wider picture, this is the beginning of the end for Putin, but the path to his departure is going to be very brutal and unlikely to be short.

  24. Dan Lynch, 02/03/2022

    Mate, hang in hopefully sense will prevail and Russian will stop advancing, as you would appreciate impossible for Australia to become involved.

    As a Aussie farmer helping feed the world I emphasize with you.

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