September 17, 2003 - South Bend Tribune: Brazil RPCV Tom Osborn advises farmers around the world

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Brazil: Peace Corps Brazil: The Peace Corps in Brazil: September 17, 2003 - South Bend Tribune: Brazil RPCV Tom Osborn advises farmers around the world

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, September 19, 2003 - 9:48 am: Edit Post

Brazil RPCV Tom Osborn advises farmers around the world

Brazil RPCV Tom Osborn advises farmers around the world

Culver native advises farmers around world

Tribune Correspondent


CULVER -- Tom Osborn, born and raised in Culver, has traveled over much of the world following his thirst to feed the hungry.

The 52-year-old Osborn's aim is to reach out to assist farmers in undeveloped countries to improve their ability to get the food they need for an active and healthy life. He works to increase the livelihood of farm families through the use of better technology, improved crop varieties and pest and disease management.

"My work is called participatory agricultural extension," the tall, slender blond said. "We work with member countries and territories on programs to directly involve farmers in identifying alternative and appropriate solutions to their problems."

One problem is the lack of rainfall.

"For the past 20 to 30 years," he said, "there has been an appreciable decline in rainfall in West Africa, for example. As a solution, we introduced crops that mature earlier and require less moisture."

Another problem that he encountered was the exclusion of female farmers from extension programs by their male counterparts.

"Despite the women's primary role in agriculture," Osborn said, "the male villagers discriminated against teaching the females. It didn't make a whole lot of sense."

Osborn's goal is to teach farmers improved practices in crop, animal and forest production and utilization, and also address plant protection, animal health and crop improvement strategies.

"My role is to advise people on the new techniques," he said. "I am not the decision maker. The people are. All I can do is share information."

He has been doing just that for 30 years.

After graduating in 1969 from Culver Academies, Osborn, the third of four sons of Bob and Dorothy Osborn, enrolled at Southern Methodist University, where in 1973 in received a degree in business.

It was assumed that he would join two of his three brothers, Bob and Dan, in the family business, the Osborn Seed & Equipment Co., in Burr Oak, established in 1939, by his grandfather, Ralph Osborn.

Tom had other ideas. "I wanted to join the Peace Corps," he said.

Some said, "Why don't you get a real job, like everybody else?"

Tom tried that. For less than a year he worked in Dallas for a printing company, leaving to follow his dream in the Peace Corps by teaching in an orphanage in Brazil.

Having worked in the fields every summer as a boy, his family background in seed production came into play when he discovered that everywhere he went "people didn't know how to efficiently grow crops and feed themselves."

Seeking training in international agriculture, he earned a master's degree from the University of California-Davis in the technical side of working with available resources and understanding the needs of farmers in different countries.

For five years (1980-1985), Osborn was an associate director in the Peace Corps. He served in Sierra Leone, West Africa, situated next to Liberia.

In 1986, he taught graduate courses in agriculture and trade policy at California State University, San Luis Obispo.

Recruited by Winrock International in Washington, D.C., Osborn was project leader from 1987 to 1993 for the On-Farm Seed Project. He worked with nongovernmental entities such as Save the Children, the Christian Children's Fund, World Vision and The Freedom from Hunger Campaign in Senegal and Gambia.

After a year at Mississippi State University studying seed technology, Osborn spent several months in Culver as a consultant on the use of seed in the event of disaster, war or famine.

For the past seven years he served as the agricultural adviser to the secretariat of the Pacific Community in Suva, Fiji Islands.

"It is an interesting part of the world," said Osborn, who speaks four languages. "For example, we get nearly nine feet of rain a year in the islands. That's a real challenge for an Indiana farm boy more used to droughts than rainfall."

In late October, he will travel to Rome, where he will be the seed security officer with the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) of the United Nations. His responsibilities will involve seed and plant genetic resources.

He comes home to Culver once a year.

This year was special. Osborn and Dr. Judi Aubel, a renown specialist in community health in developing counties, were married last month on the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee. A small group of family members gathered on two pontoons on the lake and toasted the couple with champagne.

"Culver is home," he said. " No matter how far I go ... this is always home."

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Story Source: South Bend Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Brazil; Agriculture



By Anonymous ( - on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 11:09 pm: Edit Post

I can not speak and reed english very well. But I nedd comunication with Judi Aubel. She is Tom Osborn wife.

My name is Marissa Azmitia I fron Nicaragua. Can you hepl me? For Please

Mrs Jud Aubel Osborn is my teacher, my friend. I lost aubel&osborn e mail.

plese hepl me!.

By Catherine Chilton-Werner ( on Sunday, September 07, 2008 - 6:39 pm: Edit Post

Please forward my emaail to Tom. I knew him when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Brasil way back in the 70's! I visited him in Culver, Indiana over Spring break when I was a freshman in college and even played pool with his brother. I lost track of him in Senegal and would love to get in touch with him again! It was so good to hear that he is still doing what he loves! Please only post this if it is a way to get in touch, otherwise just forward it to Tom. Thanks.

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