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Published July 29, 2013, 10:50 AM

A long trip to Lakota

A native of Uzbekistan has been working for the North Dakota State University Extension Service as an agent in Nelson County.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

LAKOTA, N.D. — His name is Oybek, but people in Lakota, N.D., sometimes light-heartedly call him “Ole.”

“There are so many Scandinavians here. Some of them call me ‘Ole’,” a common if clichéd Scandinavian first name, says Oybek Turayev (pronounced oi-bek tur-i-yev).

When he’s called that, Turayev replies in the same good-natured spirit that “maybe I should change my name to Turgunson,” a reflection on his father, Turgun Turayev, and the old Scandanvian practice in which a son took the name of his father.

Turayev is the new extension agent in Nelson County in north-central North Dakota. He succeeds Lucas Walter, who joined his family farm full time.

Turayev’s journey to Nelson County began in central Asia, with stops in western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.

He was born and raised in Uzbekistan, a landlocked central Asian country that until 1991 was part of the former Soviet Union. To help Nelson County residents better understand where he came from, Turayev has attached a map of central Asia to a cabinet wall in his basement office.

Education important

Turayev says education, which is the extension service’s mission, always has been an important part of his life.

Everyone in his family went through college. His father, now retired, was a university professor holding a doctorate in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on agricultural systems and mechanization.

Turayev speaks with pride about his father’s abilities and accomplishments.

Turayev’s mother, also retired, was a nurse. His sister is a nurse, and his brother an accountant.

Turayev himself earned an agricultural diploma and a bachelor’s degree in education in Uzbekistan.

His interest in production agriculture was sparked, in part, after getting involved with a small poultry farm that his uncle started in Uzbekistan.

“I wanted to learn more,” says Turayev, who speaks Uzbek, Russian and English. He began learning English in middle school.

In 2002, Turayev, now 34, moved to Lake Park, Minn., to work on a large poultry farm. While there, he heard good things about North Dakota State University, the land-grant university in nearby Fargo, N.D.

Turayev went on to earn his master’s degree in agricultural education and extension from NDSU.

His work experience includes:

• Serving as an assistant research technician involved in sugar beet research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Northern Crop Science Laboratory in Fargo.

• Serving as a research intern in the soybean breeding program for Pioneer Hi-Bred International in Moorhead, Minn., Fargo’s sister city.

Farmers in Nelson County grow many crops, most notably wheat and soybeans.

“No sugar beets, though,” Turayev notes.

His longstanding interest in agriculture and education led him to apply for the Nelson County post, he says.

Turayev has shown energy and enthusiasm in the position, says Lynette Flage, director of the North Dakota Extension Service’s northeast district.

Working on doctorate

Turayev, who lives in Lakota, is a part-time student at the University of North Dakota, 60 miles to the east in Grand Forks, where he’s working on a doctorate in education.

He says he enjoys both NDSU football and UND hockey. NDSU is particularly proud of its football program, while UND, in Grand Forks, touts its hockey program.

His wife, Zulfiya (similar to Sophia, he notes) lives in Fargo. She’s an NDSU student and a technical specialist for Nokia.

Turayev estimates it will take him two years or so to complete his doctorate. He’s uncertain what he’ll do then, although he says he loves education and agriculture.

Whatever his future holds, “I believe in the extension service. I’m excited to be here in Nelson County,” he says.

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