Tennessee Farmer ‘follows his calling’ in Afghanistan with Kentucky Troops

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, KY ADT 4 Unit Public Affairs and Historian Representative

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Civilian Agricultural Specialist Jon Mixon of Rutledge, Tenn. consults with Spc. Michael Hilario of Lexington, Ky. in southern Afghanistan on April 7, 2012. Mixon is a member of the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4, whose mission is to help Afghan locals develop more effective farming and business practices by providing education and sustainable tools. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan—It can be said that a person has many callings or purposes throughout their life. For Jonathon Mixon, a 24-year-old native of Rutledge, Tenn. with a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science and a Master’s degree in Plant Pathology from the Univ. of Tenn., life called him to Afghanistan after completing his Master’s in January 2012.

“It’s something I felt like God was calling me to do, and I knew from there that I was supposed to go no matter what anybody thought,” Mixon said.

Deployed to southern Afghanistan with a team of Soldiers, Airmen, and other Agricultural Specialists on the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4, Mixon finds himself on a mission to help Afghan farmers.

“My job on the mission is to be an Agricultural Advisor to the military ADT unit and provide technical knowledge and business knowledge to the unit on how we can spur economic and agricultural growth in the communities,” Mixon explained.

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Civilian Agricultural Specialist Jon Mixon (2nd from right) of Rutledge, Tenn. speaks with a local nongovernmental organization representative in southern Afghanistan on February 20, 2012. Mixon is a member of the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4, whose mission to help Afghan locals develop more effective farming and business practices by providing education and sustainable tools. Also pictured (from left): Master Sgt. Christopher Campbell and Sgt. 1st Class Catherine Corson, residents of Nicholasville, Ky. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

“One of the things I heard was ‘if you leave the economy alone, it takes care of itself.’ I see it as our role to stand up that potential for good economic growth rather than illegal or illicit growth and push that forward,” Mixon said. “That way, when we do leave, the economy can take over and we’ll have a good presence here for stability and structure and the agricultural sector and other various sectors that we may touch through agriculture.”

For Mixon, helping others is nothing new. He’s been working on mission trips, mostly to the country of Belize in Central America since the age of 14.

“My first mission trip was when I was a freshman in high school. You know, I just kind of fell in love with the idea of going and helping people and doing it for free just because we have so much and they have so little,” Mixon recalled. “It kind of got into me then, and I’ve just kind of nurtured it ever since.”

“I went with a church group who works specifically with a ministry that was based around my hometown…it was sponsoring children to go to school, basically is how it got started,”Mixon said. “My dad sponsored children, then he started going. Then I started going after he did and we’d go down there and we’d work in villages…to build houses, outhouses, schools…just do various jobs to kind of build people up and put them on their feet, especially after a disaster would happen.”

“Other than Belize, I’ve done various disaster reliefs,” Mixon noted. “I’ve been down to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, went out to middle Tennessee a few times after tornadoes have come through, and worked in southeastern Kentucky a little bit with some mission related stuff. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, and I couldn’t see my future without it.”

Mixon says his parents are proud of the work he’s doing in Afghanistan, but worried nonetheless.

“Their initial reaction was shock,” Mixon said. “But it really helped to have parents that were very supportive of the idea. They always encouraged me. They never told me ‘we don’t want you to go.’ Most of what they said was ‘we wish you weren’t going’ because it’s what every parent goes through, but they’ve always supported me,” he added.

“My dad started farming when he was 13-years-old on his own, and he learned everything he knew from his grandpa in southern Georgia where he spent most his summers,” Mixon said. “I really started taking it seriously at around 13 or 14 (years-old). It was more of a hassle earlier on, but as I grew older, my dad started putting more and more on me.”

“I guess my two big loves in life were God and agriculture,” Mixon said. “For me, it (farming) allows me to start with nothing, make plans, execute them, and know that it’s all on you. You can be the cause for failure or great success,” he added

“It’s just that freedom of working on your own and being your own boss, I guess. Knowing that you answer to yourself, and if things go good, it’s on you. I kind of feel like that’s where we started in America,” Mixon explained. “Rather than working a 9 to 5 (job), it was whenever you got up till you got it done.”

Mixon said the experience so far in Afghanistan has taught him a lot.

“Something I kind of came to a realization with is that it’s very easy to say you’re patriotic, and when I came on this trip, I always thought I had a real good sense of what it meant to be patriotic,” Mixon explained.

“Coming over here, it showed me that there were a bunch of people that took time out of their lives just like the same commitment I was making. But they’d known for years that this was their job, to protect America, to be a presence in other countries so our people can live free and safe,” he added.

“I believe poverty and safety are some things that we take for granted in America, because the biggest complaints we have on a daily basis are ‘where do I want to eat today’ and ‘what do I want to do when I get done working,’” Mixon said. “Most people in this country (Afghanistan), their thoughts are ‘can I find anything to eat’ or ‘can I find some money to buy something to eat. Is my family safe, is my house safe, is my land safe, are my assets safe?’ ”

“When I get home, I plan on probably starting back to farming,” Mixon concluded. “It’s something that I wanted to do right after college, and then this came up. I’d also like to pursue a potential future in mission work.”

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Civilian Agricultural Specialist Jon Mixon (2nd from left) of Rutledge, Tenn. takes notes during a meeting with local leaders in southern Afghanistan February 28, 2012. Mixon is a member of the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4, whose mission is to help Afghan locals develop more effective farming and business practices by providing education and sustainable tools. Also pictured (from left): Maj. James Rush of Alvaton, Ky., Civilian Specialist Beau Neal of Versailles, Ky., and Sgt. 1st Class Catherine Corson of Nicholasville, Ky. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

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