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Jonathan Knutson, Forum News Service, Published August 01 2013

Central Asia native takes extension post in Nelson County

LAKOTA, N.D. – His name is Oybek, but people in Lakota 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.

Turayev is the new Extension Service 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.

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

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

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

Turayev, now 34, moved in 2002 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.

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

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

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.

His wife, Zulfiya, lives in Fargo. She’s an NDSU student and a technical specialist for Nokia.