[Marxism] St. Charles family farmers back trading with Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 30 08:43:22 MST 2004

(This is exactly right. TRADING is a much better
way for US-Cuban economic intercourse rather than
the existing legal one-way only sales to Cuba for
cash only as current U.S. legislation permits and
which is being disrupted by the Bush regime's 
efforts attack Cuba's ability to make its cash
payments in full and on time. As Ralph Kaehler
so well points out, "We've never went to war 
with a major trading partner.". Very good and
worth reading all the way through. 

(Ignore the references to changing Cuba as China
has changed. That may be what some people would
like to see, but Cubans will decide on whatever
changes should be made on the island, an idea
with this family seems to understand reasonably.)

Winona Daily News 
November 28

St. Charles family farmers back trading with Cuba

By Shannon Fiecke / Winona Daily News

Kicking it back with Fidel Castro might not be the most
politically correct thing to do, but Ralph Kaehler believes
it's the right step toward building peace with our southern

When his two sons are grown, the St. Charles, Minn., farmer
doesn't want them leaving for Cuba toting guns, but rather
preparing to shake hands in a business deal.

"We've never went to war with a major trading partner," he

Cuba is far from a large trading partner, but when the
United States partially lifted its embargo on trade with
the nation in 2000, allowing U.S. food and agricultural
items to be sold there for cash, it opened a window of
exchange Kaehler is trying to pull wider.

While he and his wife, Filomena, disagree with some Cuban
policies, they don't think the island is the villain many
make it out to be. It's hypocritical for our country to
shut its back door, they say, when it gives most favored
nation trading status to China, another communist country.

The Kaehlers orchestrated the first sale of Minnesota
livestock to Cuba since the U.S. embargo was implemented in
1959. Though media coverage from a 2002 trade trip to Cuba
made them famous, the trans-country alliance was nothing
new for the family, whose international marketing efforts
have earned them an award from the Minnesota Department of

Growing the market

The Kaehler sons, Cliff, 15, and Seth, 13, are the fifth
generation on the family farm, which was established in

The family mostly sells purebred beef cattle - shorthorn,
Simmental and Angus. To diversify their operation by
building clientele in other countries, the family made the
first sale of shorthorn cattle to China in 1996, and Ralph
has participated in trade missions around the world,
including seven to Cuba.

Ralph Kaehler said there are few purebred breeders left who
make their income totally off livestock business. Kaehler,
a district sales supervisor for Quality Liquid Feed, said
fewer people are raising beef, which means he has to reach
farther out to sell cattle.

Kaehler and a collection of other Minnesota farmers group
together to sell agricultural products directly to
international buyers. He said purchasers like the program
because they know they're getting good products.

When cattle become part of a nationwide stock, quality is
diluted, he said, and farmers who raise the best cattle
don't get more money than those performing poorly.

To insure buyers get the quality they desire, the Kaehlers
bring livestock selectors to their farm. It's not much
different than dealing with domestic purchasers, Ralph
Kaehler said.

The Kaehlers' guest book shows they've had buyers from 25
countries stay at their house. Sometimes the international
visitors leave notes in the book in their native language
to be interpreted by future guests.

Cultural appreciation

So how does this white, rural farm family know how to
interact with buyers from around the globe?

Filomena Kaehler said although foreigners speak another
language and eat different food, they are essentially

She learned this lesson early growing up in Colorado, where
her father was a museum curator at a university.
International students often stayed with the family over
the holidays, and her parents also were African art

The licensed school teacher met Ralph Kaehler at college
and learned the cattle business after they married. Over
the years, the couple has hosted a number of international

Trade with Cuba

Despite having a stronger grasp on the international scene
than an average American family, the Kaehlers said they
were neutral on Cuba when they first traveled there in

But after talking with Cubans away from the camera and
discussing the country with American business people and
international visitors, the Kaehlers have become staunch
advocates of trade with the nation. They've also developed
a special relationship with the country's leader.

Cuba has stuck its hand out, they say, but the United
States keeps bowing to special interests groups instead of
acting in the best interests of average Americans.

On Sunday, beef selectors from Cuba arrived at the family's
farm, but Filomena Kaehler said the delegation waited a
year to receive visas from the United States.

Ralph Kaehler said other countries are "laughing all the
way to the bank" while the United States refuses to install
free trade with Cuba.

The Kaehlers said although Cubans aren't prosperous like
Americans, they are literate, have good health care and are
better off than residents of many other Latin American

The Kaehlers believe that by opening up trade with Cuba,
the country will begin to change, similar to the
transformation in China.

Fidel Castro

Other than long plane rides, Seth Kaehler, 13, said he's
enjoyed exploring the world outside the United States.

When they visited Greece and Italy three years ago, Cliff
Kaehler told his mother he wished he could speak other
languages like his European counterparts. Now a sophomore
at Cotter High School, he is learning Spanish.

The language will come in handy, as Cliff expects to travel
to Cuba for a fourth time. He said visiting foreign lands
first-hand can't be matched by reading books about them.

"You have to learn it by experience," Cliff said.

And he has learned by doing.

This spring, Cliff gave the opening remarks at an
international trade show in Cuba, speaking about why
America should trade with the nation.

He and his brother also think gaining the attention of the
world's longest-ruling leader is pretty awesome.

At the 2002 trade show, Fidel Castro - who Filomena Kaehler
said grew up on a ranch - stopped to talk with the boys
about their livestock, drawing a flurry of media cameras.

There was no hidden agenda, Filomena Kaehler said, as
Castro discussed the animals at length with her sons.

The Cuban leader grew so enamored with the boys that he
invited them to be his guests of honor at a Cuban cultural
celebration, and the family also got to attend a
presidential dinner.

When Castro walked alongside the boys into the celebration,
Seth Kaehler told his mother he was expecting applause, so
he pretended it was for himself. At one point during their
stay, someone asked the Kaehler boys to get an autograph
from Castro for himself. When they went searching for
Castro his staff took them down to the leader's limo.
Sitting in his vehicle, they again chatted with the

Now, whenever the Kaehlers return to Cuba, the family meets
with Castro, who has even added them to his Christmas card

ON THE WEB To learn more about the Kaehler farm, visit

Reporter Shannon Fiecke can be reached at (507) 453-3519 or
shannon.fiecke at winonadailynews.com.

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