CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The goat, a runt in terms of size, limped around a make-shift pen set up on the grounds of the Austin Peay State University Environmental Education Center, or APSU farm. His hoof was overgrown and infected, prompting APSU adjunct professor of agriculture Bob Moore to pull out a pair of metal trimmers and clip back the gnarled, black growth as if it were simply a long fingernail.
Moore held up the trimmers and suggested everyone bring a pair with them to Afghanistan. Issues such as infected goat hooves are a common problem for farmers in that war-torn country, he said.
Along the perimeter of the fenced-in pen, members of Fort Campbell’s 5th Special Forces Group and the Tennessee National Guard stood with their arms folded across their chests. They nodded as the goat sprung back to its feet and trotted away from Moore.
For the last year, these types of demonstrations have occurred regularly at the APSU farm. The University’s Department of Agriculture is working closely with the military to train soldiers in how to assist Afghan farmers still using archaic crop production and livestock practices. It’s part of the military’s growing focus on helping the Afghani population build up their country.
Moore, who previously served in Afghanistan as a member of the Tennessee Army National Guard’s first Agribusiness Development Team, is sharing his experiences with soldiers about to deploy to that region.
“They’re trying to get a background in agriculture,” he said on a chilly Thursday morning in November. “We call it ‘Ag 101.’”
Through the department’s “Ag 101” program, soldiers come to the farm and first visit with APSU assistant professor of agriculture Dr. Rodney Mills. He works with them on cattle, focusing on subjects such as handling facilities and beef production. Then they meet with Dr. Don Sudbrink, chair of the APSU Department of Agriculture, and Dr. Jim Goode, professor, for a quick lesson on plant and soil sciences.
On their last day at the farm, the soldiers listen to Moore as he explains the specifics of agricultural development in Afghanistan. On that particular Thursday in November, he talked to the group about potential projects, such as building greenhouses, developing beekeeping programs and vaccinating cattle against foot and mouth disease.
He also explained how wheat yields are drastically low in Afghanistan, even though those farmers use more seeds and fertilizer than American farmers. He attributed the low output to that fact that Afghan farmers simply toss their seeds onto the ground.
“You can duplicate the yields of U.S. wheat if you cover your seeds up,” Moore said. “Their typical wheat yields were 10 bushel to the acre. In the U.S., a good yield of wheat in Tennessee is 70 bushels an acre. Under 40 bushels, our farmers are filing for crop insurance. You get 20 bushels in Afghanistan, your name is in the paper. You’re a major producer.”
Col. Jason Glass, with the Tennessee National Guard, was one of the soldiers standing around the pen that afternoon, watching Moore work with the injured goat. In a few months, he’ll lead the Guard’s second Agriculture Development Team to Afghanistan.
“We’re up here getting Ag 101 training,” he said. “We have 10 agriculture specialists on our team. We asked (Moore) to put this demonstration on to give resources to these guys.”
Sudbrink, the chair of the department, said they hope to continue this collaboration with Fort Campbell and the Tennessee National Guard. The relationship provides the soldiers with knowledge and resources they can take with them to Afghanistan, he said, while allowing the agriculture department to support the U.S. military.
For more information on this program, contact the APSU Department of Agriculture at 221-7272.
Photo cutline: Bob Moore instructs a group of soldiers on how to care for livestock in Afghanistan. (Photo by Dr. Don Sudbrink/APSU).