A group of Iowa National Guard members who’re headed to Afghanistan in a couple of weeks are getting special training in the farming practices that were in vogue when Iowa was first settled. Colonel Neil Stockfletch is leading the “Agribusiness Development Team” that visited Living History Farms in Urbandale today.

“We’ve had an opportunity to hitch up and drive a horse team as well as an ox team,” Stockfleth says.  “Those are technologies that are probably appropriate for the area that we’re going in. It might even, surprisingly, as we think how ancient in our view those practices are, but those are probably quite advanced practices in the area that we’re going to in Afghanistan.”

The team of 60 Iowa National Guard members will take over from a group of Californians who’ve been helping Afghan farmers modernize.  According to Stockfleth, most Afghans are working the land by hand, raising just enough crops for their own families. 

“Some of the other things that we’re going to face is that they’ve had a whole generation of war there, 30 years, and when the Russians were there they really tried to destroy a lot of the rural infrastructure: crops, orchards, flocks, irrigation systems and there’s a lot of that that hasn’t been rebuilt and irrigation is probably key in that,” Stockfleth says. “It’s such a dry country, they need the irrigation to raise crops.”

Stockfleth, who grew up on a western Iowa farm near Schleswig, says the 60-member “Agribusiness Development Team” of Iowa Guard troops should be in Afghanistan in early July.