Bear Creek Friends Meeting and North Korea

I just wrote about the current interest in the idea of “farm diplomacy” after a couple of editorials were published in the Des Moines Register.  Sept. 1, 2017, Kenneth M Quinn, President of the World Food Prize suggested inviting a North Korean delegation to visit the United States as a way of easing tensions.  In 1959 the Des Moines Register invited  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to come to Iowa to discuss agricultural practices.  The Register’s Lauren Soth won a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for that editorial, in part because Khrushchev accepted the offer.

Then Jon Krieg, of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Des Moines, shared the story at the bottom of this with Des Moines Register editor, Lynn Hicks, about AFSC hosting a North Korean agricultural delegation’s visit to Iowa in 2001.   October 5, 2017, the Register published the editorial  Could North Korea’s Kim visit Iowa, as Khrushchev did?  Trump administration should try farm diplomacy.

In response, the author of the story about the 2001 visit (below) published in the Register:

Thanks to the Register for its Oct. 6 editorial, “Let’s Invite North Korea’s Kim to Iowa.”
It was my distinct pleasure and honor to accompany the five North Koreans who visited an Iowa farm in 2001. What a warm and friendly evening it was, as we gathered for a delicious potluck with friends at the Bear Creek Meeting House.
That kind of one-on-one conversation and exchange of ideas is sorely needed today.
Why not invite Kim Jong Un to Iowa? “Farm diplomacy” helped ease tensions in the 1950s. Why not now? It could be a powerful way to move the conversation with North Korea from bombs and missiles to food and feeding hungry people.
Herb Standing’s words still ring true today, “We must tell people that it is not through missiles and bombs that we find security and peace, but rather through the one-on-one sharing with persons of different countries, cultures and experiences.”
Let’s give it a try.
— Eloise M. Cranke, Des Moines

Several of the people who had participated in that visit in 2001, were at Bear Creek meeting this morning, 10/8/2017.  They shared their memories of that time.  Winifred Standing shared what she had written in her journal that day:

Wednesday, February 28, 2001
2 degrees above zero this morn.  Sunny
I made an Economical Sponge Cake and a soybean casserole.  Browned roast.  Lots of phone calls  this morn about wood and about tonight.  I went to meetinghouse–cleaned a bit, set dishes out, got coffee pot ready, etc.   I started cooking roasts at 2:00.  Peeled potatoes.   Eloise Cranke arrived just  before 4.  We visited with her until Randy Iverson and 5 North Koreans arrived.  They looked at our heifers and quizzed Ellis.  Eloise took me to meetinghouse about 5:15 to get supper started.  Ellis brought Dads and Dorothy later.  A good crowd gathered.  A good supper and questions and answers around fireplace after–Home about 9.  We visited and rested.  Seemed a good evening.

We discussed how this might relate to our current political situation.  I said I had shared the previous blog post with Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee, Scattergood Friends School, and several people at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).  If another North Korean delegation did visit, I think a visit to Scattergood Friends School’s Farm at West Branch would be very beneficial.

The meeting wanted to support the idea of the Register inviting another delegation from North Korea to visit us, and approved the following letter.

A letter to North Korea

Dear friends,
Many of us at Bear Creek Friends meeting, in the Iowa countryside, were present, and fondly remember the visit of a delegation from your country in 2001.  We enjoyed sharing a meal, having you visit one of our farms, and talking together about farming and each other’s families and lives.
Most of us are either farmers or have been involved in farming, and share your interest in providing food for others.  It deeply saddens us to know not everyone has enough to eat, in our own country and around the world.  We are very interested in doing whatever we can to help improve this troubling situation.
We would welcome another visit from your country.  It would be very good to continue to share each other’s work and stories.  To talk about how we can provide more food for the world.

Bear Creek Friends Meeting
Earlham, Iowa

AFSC article about North Korean ag visit to Iowa Spring 2001 Edited 2

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1 Response to Bear Creek Friends Meeting and North Korea

  1. jakisling says:

    Reblogged this on Quakers, social justice and revolution and commented:

    This post describes the history related to a visit to Bear Creek Meeting by a North Korean agricultural delegation in 2001. There will be meetings this weekend with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) staff to see if we can arrange another visit by North Koreans.

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