Iowa ADT trains with Amish, at Living History Farms

  • Published
  • By Capt. Peter Shinn
  • 734th Agri-Business Development Team
It was an unlikely scene Wednesday, 18 June, in northeast Iowa Amish country. The uniforms of the Iowa Army and Air National Guardsmen who make up the Iowa National Guard's 734th Agri-Business Development Team (ADT) were quite a contrast with the Amish farmers who opened their mostly unmechanized operations to the military personnel.

The ADT aims to protect Afghanistan's population by helping Afghan farmers improve their production and economic well-being. But Maj. Duane Eden, an Iowa farmer and agricultural specialist for the ADT, discovered bringing Afghan ag production up to the standards of Amish farms won't be easy.

"I was very impressed with the Amish operations," Eden said. "And, you know, hopefully we can get the Afghans up to a level somewhat like the Amish even, which I would guess is probably a hundred years ahead of where they currently they are at."

The Amish farmers agreed to be photographed only if their faces did not appear in the images. Only one of them, Ura Gingrich, who has been farming for decades much as his forbears, have, agreed to let a recording of his voice be made. Gingrich pledged his support for what the Iowa ADT is attempting to do in Afghanistan and wished the team success.

"Yeah, I hope you have good luck over there with them and teach them how to do things so they can get their mind on agriculture instead of fighting," Gingrich said.

The following day, Iowa's ADT continued to prepare for the underdeveloped conditions they will encounter in Afghanistan with a day-long visit to Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa. Living History Farms is a non-profit, educational institution that features farming demonstrations and practices dating as far back as 1850, and the ADT learned the finer points of working with draft animals such as oxen and horses.

That information is important, because the use of draft animals is common on Afghani farms, most of which are no larger than a single acre of land. Of course, most of the draft animals used by Afghani farmers are much smaller than the oxen team, named Beauregard and Lucas, who make Living History Farms their home.

"Beauregard and Lucas is - just a rough estimate - would say as a team weigh around 3000 pounds," said Living History farms manager Steve Gray.

Master Sgt. Darla Sheasley is the veterinary technician for the 734th Agri-Business Development Team. She called the Living History Farms training on the handling of draft animals "unique and very useful." And she noted the Living History Farms training offered lessons the ADT can definitely take with them to Afghanistan.

"One, that we have to treat the animals with respect," said Sheasley, "train them the best we can and treat them the best we can."

The Office of Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Secretary Bill Northey arranged the ADT visit to the northeast Iowa Amish farms. The Iowa National Guard's Ag Development Team has its official going away ceremony 1 July.

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