Iowa farm lessons bring the world close to home for refugees

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BLUE GRASS, Iowa - - Farming speaks a universal language for Nujen Easter.

"This is fun for me," she said on Wednesday, April 26.

She emigrated from Thailand in 2010.  These days, she milks cows at Majestic Manor in Blue Grass.

On Wednesday, she connected with 50 global newcomers to the Quad Cities.

"I'm from Thailand," she said.  "Whatever you farm, you can do this."

While many of the visitors come from farming communities, this dose of positive thinking is something new.

"Our country doesn't have this," said Mulei Shee, who relocated from Myanmar.  "Here, you have technology."

They'll find nothing more American than Majestic Manor.  Operating more than 150 years in Blue Grass, this is a fourth generation family farm.

While contending with a global economy these days, farmer David Petersen is also helping to unite cultures.

"Seven-and-a-half billion people sharing this planet," he said.  "I'm in the business of trying to feed some of them."

Visitors come from the Spring Forward Learning Center. They attend the Family Literacy Program at Church of Peace in Rock Island.

"It's another world for them," said teacher Maria Hernandez.

Sipping cups of fresh milk, it's a real welcome to America. Plus, it's a nice break from trying to learn a new language and culture in a hurry.

"Help them assimilate," said Dan McNeil, Spring Forward Learning Center.  "Help them become more familiar.  As a result, be more successful in our community."

Climbing aboard a big school bus, these are lessons to remember.

"We really welcome them, too," said Easter.

For her, it's a special time with new friends.

"I want to show them  -- I'm a woman -- I can do this," she concluded.

For the visitors, inspiration to last from this Blue Grass farm.



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