Earlier this month, close to 20 tourism experts from the former Soviet Union visited the Accokeek Foundation as part of a month-long exploration of tourism in the United States.
Their stateside travels, arranged through the International Trade Administration’s Special American Business Internship Training Program, will include visits to tourist sites in Utah, Massachusetts, and Maine, as the delegates learn how to expand the tourism industries of their home states. Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and more: each of the eight states represented by the delegates contains unique resources around which tourism can be developed—similar to our own stewardship of the natural and historical resources located here in Piscataway Park.
Indeed, several delegates expressed an interest in eco-, agri-, and historical tourism, and a desire to learn how to establish an outdoor educational site akin to the Ecosystem or National Colonial Farms. Server Beytulayev, for instance, is the director of a tourism company in the Ukraine, and dreams of offering more cultural, historical, and green tourism packages to his clients. Having joined forces with artists, architects, and tour operators, Beytulayev also hopes to soon establish a living history museum that would depict how Crimean Tatars once lived.
“[This operation] would recreate Crimean Tatar villages the way [these villages] used to be 200 years ago,” Beytulayev said through a translator. “We will hope to do exactly the way it looks here [at the National Colonial Farm]: how the [Tatars] grew back then vegetables, fruits, cattle operations.”
And just as the life depicted on the National Colonial Farm centers on the land around us, Beytulayev’s proposed site is environment-based; he hopes that educating about the agricultural practices of the past will promote sustainable agricultural practices in the present. “We will be having festivities, and people will participate in cooking historical meals and eating them. And this will be a way to promote organic farming: people will see … how beautiful meals can be cooked from organic produce,” Beytulayev said.
Marina Chirinashvili, general manager of one of the leading outbound tourism companies in Georgia, shares Beytulayev’s desire to promote sustainable agriculture. Involved with a school-based “Farm to Table” program, Chirinashvili laments the disconnect that has developed in Georgia between urban and rural life. Chirinashvili takes school groups “to the villages to show [them working farms],” she said. “And really, it was a surprise for me that children did not have an idea about the chicken, or the potato. So [visiting working farms] is a very useful moment for schools.”
“All our kids are living in cities, and not many people [are living] in villages nowadays in Georgia,” Chirinashvili said. “So such kind of [educational] farms are very important, not only for foreigners coming to study our country and how we are doing agriculture, but also for our kids, who have no idea how [their food is] growing.”
“Everybody has to know what we are eating, how it grows,” Chirinashvili continued. “Everyone has to know from where they came. We don’t have to forget our traditions.”
Each year, tens of thousands of visitors travel to the Accokeek Foundation in Piscataway Park. Like Chirinashvili, Beytulayev, and so many of the other delegates whom we were honored to host, we strive to encourage all of our visitors to further engage with the natural world around them, taking care to appreciate and conserve the unique resources of the region in which we live.