Poppy and marijuana are big cash crops in Afghanistan. Army National Guardsmen are showing them how growing corn, grapes and more can be just as profitable, but not without instilling some modern technology and some basic education.

The Missouri National Guard’s third Agribusiness Development Team has just returned from Afghanistan, a fourth team now ships out. The Guard has been working with Afghan farmers for three years in an effort to implement better agricultural practices, helping them become self-sustaining.

Major Tammy Spicer says Missouri was the front runner in the project and other states have followed suit. Now, more than a dozen other states have sent teams, too, all of which include soldiers with experience in everything from engineering to soil maintenence.

She says the teams go for a year at a time. The third team that just returned is being replaced by a fourth, which will build upon the efforts of the previous three teams. A fifth is being prepared, which will allow Missouri and the United States to maintain a presence there for at least the next two years. Spicer says that demonstrates the commitment the Guard has to getting the Afghan people to a place where they can gain independence.