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September 22, 2010   Email to Friend 

DEATSVILLE COTTON FIELD BECOMES GLOBAL CLASSROOM
Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
September 22, 2010

International Dependent's English Course classmates from Maxwell Air Force Base get their photo taken at a cotton module on the Edgar Farm. On back row, center (with brown t-shirt) is Becky Edgar who hosted the group.
DEATSVILLE, Ala. -- A Deatsville cotton field became a global classroom Wednesday as about 30 women from the International Dependent's English Course (IDEC) at Maxwell Air Force Base visited Richard and Becky Edgar's farm as part of the program's cultural exchange.

With garden snips or scissors and plastic shopping bags in hand, women from Slovenia, Germany, France, Israel, Denmark, Norway, Philippines and other countries laughed and joked with one another -- in English and other languages -- as they picked cotton and took lots of photographs under blistering late-September heat.

"My opinion is that if they are somewhere and speaking English, it's class," said Marcia Monroe, an instructor with the language program sponsored by the International Officer School for spouses and/or children of officers at the Air Command Staff College or Air War College.

"All of their husbands, or fathers in some cases, are officers that are doing a one-year tour at Maxwell," Monroe explained. "Most of these ladies will be here for a year, and you know the old saying, 'If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy' ... So, we try to make it possible for everybody to be happy by making it easier for them to speak English and get around.

"This is their one big foray into the country, and they seem to really look forward to it," she added. "All of these will go home, and more people will come next year and as soon as their feet hit the ground, they'll ask, 'When are we going to pick cotton?' They really enjoy it."

Becky Edgar said the IDEC visits began four years ago when Monroe called to ask if the group could come and pick cotton.

"We look forward to this every year," said Becky. "It's interesting to meet ladies from all over the world. I remember the first year we did it -- I talked with a lady from India, and they grow cotton over there too. I think she said they handpick all their cotton over there. So we had a good discussion about the different practices. I'm always amazed at how happy they are! But they're on a field trip -- I guess they're having a good time."

Monroe said the field trip is a treat for most of the women, who are more accustomed to city life.

"Most of them live in Montgomery, Prattville and Millbrook and pass the cotton fields on their way to the base," Monroe said. "Many of them want to pick, but I have to tell them that you can't just go out into a field and start picking -- you really need to ask permission. But when you pass these places, who do you ask? I decided I would start trying to find a farmer that would let us pick, and four years ago, I did. I found the Edgars, and it's just mushroomed."

Monroe said the women would use the cotton bolls they picked to create "cotton angels" and other decorations.

While the sight of women picking cotton with plastic shopping bags and garden snips is, well, unusual, Richard Edgar saw it as an opportunity to help pick 250 acres of cotton.

"If all of them had a bag and could pick about a bale a day, they could pick about what I'm picking with this," said Richard, who stopped his big red Case IH cotton picker to answer the group's many questions.

Before Edgar climbed back aboard his picker, another instructor expressed her gratitude by saying, "This may just be the highlight of their time in America."

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