"A strong Israel is an American interest, and KKL-JNF, with the help of its friends throughout the world, many of them from the USA, helps make Israel stronger." The Honorable Daniel Shapiro, American ambassador to Israel, was speaking on Wednesday, January 30, at a special ceremony honoring KKL-JNF's contribution to the Arava at the 2013 Open Day Arava Agricultural Exhibition. The exhibition took place at the Central and Northern Arava Research and Development Station, while the ceremony itself took place at the new auditorium of the Vidor Family Visitors Center, which is currently being built at the R&D station. The center, which is being developed thanks to a generous contribution from Ervin and Lottie Vidor of Sydney, Australia, is described as "a Window to Environmental Agriculture." The Vidor Family Visitors Center will showcase the Arava's internationally acclaimed achievements in desert agriculture, and will be open to the public as of the beginning of 2014.
Ossi Winter, an employee at the R&D station, said that although the researchers are always interested in new and unexplored fields, said "our first priority and main purpose is still to obtain the maximal yield of whatever we can grow in the Arava, in terms of both quantity and quality. We must deal with challenges that are not faced by farmers anywhere else in Israel. For example, we are doing a lot of experimentation on growing peppers in brackish water, the only sort of water we have here. The Arava was supposed to have been linked up to the national water network years ago, but it hasn't yet happened. We realize that we need to be dependent on ourselves as much as possible and not rely on outside sources."
Aylon Gadiel, director of the Arava R&D said "The research we do here offers practical, not just theoretical, solutions to farming in an extreme desert climate. The local farmers come here all year long with their problems, questions and feedback. The R&D station is like a home to them."
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