Newton Farms hosts Guardsmen on a mission to help others

LAKEVILLE — Newton Farms spent Monday helping some National Guards-men make the world a little better place.
Starting at 8 a.m. 13 members of the 3-19th ADT – a National Guard Team scheduled for deployment in Afghanistan – became goat farmers for the day at Newton Farms. Their education, under the expert guidance of Jerry Gorka, Farm Manager for Newton Farms, was to let the Guardsmen gain some experience into the life of a goat farmer.
Commander of the team, Lt. Colonel Robert Millsaps – who has his own horse farm in North Carolina – was thankful for first hand experience for his team headed to a very unique mission in Afghanistan.
“We are the third AgriBusiness team of the Indiana National Guard, our mission is to assist the farmers and folks involved in agribusiness in the Khost province of Afghanistan in improving their yields and agricultural techniques so they can have a better way of life,” he said. “They (Afghanis) are good farmers to begin with but they are basically subsisting right now. We want to help them have something to take to market. Most people have goats and sheep in the villages of Afghanistan and that’s why we’re here today. The assistance the folks at Newton Farms have given us today is invaluable. You can read about it in a book all you want but until you’ve done it it’s very hard to go out and train an agricultural agent to do it.”
The members of the unit come from widely different backgrounds — there is a juvenile courts judge from Marion County, a nurse from Brown County, and a helicopter repair specialist – but the one thing they have in common is an agricultural background. That and a desire to see the team complete its mission of helping the Afghan people have a better way of life.
One member of the unit has been to Afghanistan before — in a combat position — and is anxious to return. Staff Sergeant Alexander Purdue from Nashville is hoping to help the people that he helped liberate in his last tour.
“The first time around it was totally different than what we’re doing now,” he said. “I actually did enjoy the country it’s very pretty over there with the snow in the mountains. It’s a really pretty country in spite of everything that’s going on.
“I’m the bee keeper and pest manager in the team this time around. Personally my goal this time is to help the agricultural agents teach pest management and bee keeping the best I can. I hope we can teach the Afghani people how to produce more honey, money and everything they need for their families to better their way of life.”
The team also will have a very special outreach to women in their province.
“The most interesting aspect of our team may be the women’s outreach project,” said Millsaps. “Currently women are second class citizens in Afghanistan. They aren’t even allowed out of the house without the full dress you see. We want to make them aware of their ability to be productive and add value to the family. They can produce something of value that can be sold at a market, whether it be textiles, vegetables and thus increasing their educational level to realize their overall value to the community.”