MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq- Soldiers with the 120th Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and a family of Iraqi dairy farmers are spearheading a pilot program designed to increase milk and cheese production in the Mahmudiyah area, south of Baghdad.

This is the first dairy initiative that the North Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers have started with the Iraqis.

Capt. Sara Woods, Civil Affairs Team 31, said the intent is to revitalize the area's dairy industry.

Using micro grants, the pilot farm will be used to build a well and buy cheese-making equipment. The farmers' part of the program begins with them logging their dairy production.

"This will help them generate better milk and dairy products, which is going to improve the entire dairy process throughout the area," said Woods.

While Soldiers searched for a suitable pilot farm, the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jack Mellott, of Fayetteville, N.C., actually noticed this farm while on patrol.

"Our mission was to stop and to talk with everyone who had cows," said Spc. Justin Gay, of Panama City, Fla., who was part of Mellott's patrol. "We hit the nail on the head when we stopped at that farm because they had the most cows, and the best operation going on."

This particular farm is a perfect candidate for the new program, said Woods, because of the large number of milking cows on the farm.

As well as having a large number of cows, the family farm also has a large workforce: 70 family members ranging from infants to elderly.

While the program is kicking off on this one farm, the results will eventually be used to assist farms throughout the area.

"We want to start small and figure out how well the programs work," said Woods, of Janesville, Minn. "We need to figure out how to do the micro grants, and how to work with the farmers to see what they need to increase their dairy, without just telling them what to do."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16