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Cultivating Afghanistan: The Cline Farm

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The Cline farm in the Lawrence County town of Heltonville has been in the family for generations – so long, in fact, the original deed had President John Quincy Adams’s name on it. Audrey Cline grew up on this land, cherishing its tall old trees, purling creek and animals ambling about. Now she shares it with her husband Bob — a National Guard Captain and their children — many laughing children.

After raising one family of six kids, Audrey and her husband Bob decided to embark on another, adopting five more, including two small boys from China with special needs. The Clines share the farm with a menagerie of epic proportions: a large herd of cattle, 15 dogs, miniature horses and an array of chickens, ducks, geese and peacocks, tended by Hunter, 8. But the Cline farm is currently missing an important member.

Captain Bob Cline is one of the commanders of the Indiana National Guard’s 119th Agribusiness Development Team that is deployed in eastern Afghanistan’s Khost Province, one of the country’s insurgency hot spots. Captain Cline’s unit includes Purdue-trained agricultural experts, who are working with Afghan farmers to improve locals’ incomes with sustainable practices. The team’s engineers and hydrologists are scouting locations for surface reservoirs.

While Captain Cline faces his challenges in Afghanistan, the Cline family faces its own in Indiana, keeping up the farm and tending to a passel of kids-some with special needs. The week before, Danny, 4, underwent surgery at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis. Though Bob knew about his son’s surgery, Audrey says she’s been coached to keep some information from her husband…

“They told us in the beginning not to worry them while they were there,” Audrey said. “They need to be keeping their mind on their business so that no one gets hurt. Everything’s been going fine, as far as he knows.”

The Cline’s neighbors pitch in to help, as does their extended family. The older kids help mind their younger siblings, and assist with the farm chores. Audrey Cline laughs when she learns her neighbor, Lawrence County Farm Bureau president Walter Hunter, calls her a “pretty capable woman,” who does “most things herself.”

“We’ve had different times they’ve come over and helped feed the cows when the guys weren’t there help me do that. There’s been several things that I have been glad to have the neighbors around,” Audrey said.

And, though he’s deep in Afghanistan, Captain Bob Cline does what he can.

“He’s terrible,” Audrey joked. “He text-mails me, he e-mails…”

Despite the fact it makes life on the home front harder, Audrey said she understands why her husband is on the front lines of agriculture half a world away.

“Maybe the things that they can bring home and educate the people around us that not everyone that’s over there is ready to kill someone here.”

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