• Mississippi National Guard member Staff Sgt. Robert E. Krebs, 26, from Ocean Springs, Miss., provides security at the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, while other members of the Agricultural Development Team in Zabul province work with local Afghans on the farm Nov. 13, 2012.   Krebs is the noncommissioned officer in charge of security forces for the Zabul ADT-Mescal Detachment.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard member Staff Sgt. Robert E. Krebs, 26, from Ocean Springs, Miss., provides security at the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, while other members of the Agricultural Development Team in Zabul province work with...

  • Mississippi National Guard member Staff Sgt. Dean Fennell, 44, from Brooksville, Miss., and a local Afghan farmer discuss crops at the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012.  Fennell is an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team's Mescal Detachment in Zabul province.  The demonstration farm was established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard member Staff Sgt. Dean Fennell, 44, from Brooksville, Miss., and a local Afghan farmer discuss crops at the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012. Fennell is an agricultural specialist with the...

  • Mississippi National Guard member 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek, the officer in charge of the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team's Mescal Detachment in Zabul province chats with a local farmer on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012.  The demonstration farm was established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices.  Cleek, 25, is from Winchester, Tenn.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard member 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek, the officer in charge of the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team's Mescal Detachment in Zabul province chats with a local farmer on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan...

  • Mississippi National Guard member 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek, the officer in charge of the Mescal Detachment of the Agricultural Development Team in Zabul province chats with a local farmer on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012.  The demonstration farm was established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices.  Cleek, 25, is from Winchester, Tenn.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard member 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek, the officer in charge of the Mescal Detachment of the Agricultural Development Team in Zabul province chats with a local farmer on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13...

  • Mississippi National Guard member Staff Sgt. Dean Fennell, 44, from Brooksville, Miss., discusses plans with a local Afghan farmer at the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012.  Fennell is an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team's Mescal Detachment in Zabul province.  The demonstration farm was established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard member Staff Sgt. Dean Fennell, 44, from Brooksville, Miss., discusses plans with a local Afghan farmer at the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012. Fennell is an agricultural specialist with the...

  • Mississippi National Guard members 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek (left), the officer in charge of the Mescal Detachment of the Agricultural Development Team in Zabul province and Staff Sgt. Dean Fennell, an agricultural specialist with the same team, relax with a local farmer on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012.  The demonstration farm was established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices.  Cleek, 25, is from Winchester, Tenn., and Fennell, 44, is from Brooksville, Miss. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard members 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek (left), the officer in charge of the Mescal Detachment of the Agricultural Development Team in Zabul province and Staff Sgt. Dean Fennell, an agricultural specialist with the same team, relax with...

  • Mississippi National Guard member 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek, 25, from Winchester, Tenn., talks with a local Afghan farmer on the demonstration farm established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012.  Cleek is the officer in charge of the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team's Mescal Detachment in Zabul province.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard member 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek, 25, from Winchester, Tenn., talks with a local Afghan farmer on the demonstration farm established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices in Shar-e-safa...

  • Mississippi National Guard member Spc. Sheldon Roberson, 21, from Wiggins, Miss., surveys the demonstration established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, while a fellow Soldier provides security Nov. 13, 2012.  Roberson, who took off his glove to greet a local farmer when arriving at the farm, is a member of the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team in Zabul province.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard member Spc. Sheldon Roberson, 21, from Wiggins, Miss., surveys the demonstration established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, while a fellow Soldier...

  • An Afghan farmer attempts to work a rotor-tiller for the first time on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, with guidance from the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team in Zabul Nov. 13, 2012.  The demonstration farm was established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    An Afghan farmer attempts to work a rotor-tiller for the first time on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, with guidance from the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team in Zabul Nov. 13, 2012. The demonstration farm...

  • Mississippi National Guard member Staff Sgt. Dean Fennell, 44, from Brooksville, Miss., shows local Afghan farmers how to perform maintenance on a rotor-tiller, at a demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012.  Fennell is an agricultural specialist with the Agricultural Development Team 4 Mescal Detachment in Zabul province.  The demonstration farm was established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard member Staff Sgt. Dean Fennell, 44, from Brooksville, Miss., shows local Afghan farmers how to perform maintenance on a rotor-tiller, at a demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012. Fennell is an...

  • Mississippi National Guard member Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team's Mescal Detachment in Zabul province checks the pumpkin patch on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012.  The demonstration farm was established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices.  Marshall, 44, is from Terry, Miss.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard member Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team's Mescal Detachment in Zabul province checks the pumpkin patch on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan...

  • Mississippi National Guard members 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek (right), the officer in charge of the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team's Mescal Detachment in Zabul province and Staff Sgt. Randall Smith, a security forces member of the same team pause to discuss progress on the demonstration farm in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012.  The demonstration farm was established as a teaching center for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices.  Cleek, 25, is from Winchester, Tenn., and Smith, 30, is from Florence, Miss. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lori Bilyou)

    A productive patch in Shar-e-Safa

    Mississippi National Guard members 2nd Lt. Philip Cleek (right), the officer in charge of the Mississippi NG Agricultural Development Team's Mescal Detachment in Zabul province and Staff Sgt. Randall Smith, a security forces member of the same team...

SHAR-E-SAFA, Afghanistan - When they arrived at the farm in September, the Mescal detachment of the Mississippi National Guard Agricultural Development Team 4 knew they had their work cut out for them. It appeared that the most abundant crops growing were weeds that nearly choked the modest enclosure located off the main road in Shar-e-safa, Afghanistan.

The farm was established as a demonstration farm intended for local farmers to learn improved agricultural practices. The Mississippi ADT quickly surmised that there wasn't much being taught by the jumbled mess they surveyed.

Two months later, young pomegranate trees stand in orderly rows, a pumpkin patch is ready for harvest and a field is ready to be prepared for a planting of winter wheat.

Staff Sgt. Fennell, an agricultural specialist with the ADT is interested in growing the wheat seed sold by the government of Afghanistan alongside the wheat seed that farmers typically buy from neighboring Pakistan. The question is whether the Afghan farmer hired to work at the demo farm is just as interested.

Even speaking through an interpreter, it's hard to miss the genuine interest Fennell shows in the proposed experiment. The idea is to plant both wheat at the same time and grow them side by side under the same conditions to see if there is a difference between the two.

Standing alongside the field they are to plant, Fennell and the farmer discuss the project. The Afghan farmer agrees. He, too, is interested in seeing the outcome.

2nd Lt. Philip Cleek, officer in charge of the ADT's Mescal detachment in Zabul, attributes much of the change occurring on the farm to the trust his command has placed in the team's ability.

"The last team that was here wasn't really allowed to do anything," Cleek said. "Their command wouldn't let them, and the Afghans wouldn't do anything without help."

The Mescal ADT4 detachment is not afraid to get their hands dirty and willingly works alongside the Afghans in order to demonstrate proper agricultural techniques. But it's really up to the Afghan farmers to get the job done.

The operation of the farm's rotor-tiller is a good example of the Mescal detachment's style. After showing the Afghans some routine maintenance for the machine, Fennell pushes it out to the field, starts it up and begins turning over the earth. He easily makes three or four passes up and down the field's length before calling to the Afghan farmer.

Through an interpreter Fennell explains how the tiller is used then hands it over to the farmer for his turn.

When the farmer takes the tiller, what had looked easy moments ago with Fennell at the controls, now appears difficult as the farmer struggles to dig the blades into the earth. The machine is pushed out in front and the farmer, stretched out behind, leans heavily on the handles.

Fennell steps in to assist and the farmer quickly relinquishes control but Fennell shakes his head.

"You don't have to push so hard," Fennell says though the interpreter. "Let the machine do the work for you."

This type of hands-on approach appears to be paying off at the farm, but the other possible cause for the change at the farm is what some might call "tough love."

"We had a hard time when we first got here convincing them to work," Cleek said. "We had to fire some people."

Despite the seemingly rough start, the combination of methods is clearly working to produce a productive farm and interested farmers.

Before the ADT leaves for the day, one of the farmer's sons asks a question: Can he plant alfalfa after the pumpkin patch is cleared?

"He wants to plant stuff on his own?" Cleek clarifies with the translator.

The translator nods his head.

"Whoh," Cleek smiles, nodding at the young man.

It is the Pashto way of agreeing that the suggestion is a good idea.

Page last updated Sun December 2nd, 2012 at 00:00