It was early June 1984 as I found myself working in strawberry fields in the western end of Rhineland Palatinate in Germany, i.e. the part of Germany directly north of Alsace and Lorraine, a part of France that two world wars were fought over. I was there as part of an exchange program between Europeans and North Americans dating back to the end of the second world war.
After WWII, Mennonite churchmen in the USA had begun to bring Germans and other Europeans over to work in the USA for a year internship in hospitals, on farms, in schools etc.
The purpose of the trainee program was part of a trend in the USA after WWII to build friendship around the globe and to help obtain a more stable world peace through people-to-people exchanges on both sides of the war’s landscape. These face-to-face work or trainee exchanges have continued into this decade of the 21st century.
European Mennonites reciprocated and created a program called the Intermenno Trainee program to bring young peoples from other lands to live and work in Europe starting in the early 1960s.
In other words, the reason I found myself working on European Mennonite family farms in 1983-1984 was because I was an Intermenno Trainee myself for a twelve-month period between my junior and senior year in university.
As a trainee, therefore, I was working in various strawberry fields that spring in 1984 as fairly huge earth-moving machines announced that they intended to plow through one of tour strawberry fields.
You see. The European Union had agreed over five years earlier to the building of the first large gas pipeline extending from the Soviet Union through Eastern Europe, Germany, and on to France. It was this pipeline that was to go underneath the humble strawberry patch in Rhineland-Palatinate, where the Mennonite Church family Ernst, whom I stayed with and worked for, had planted strawberries over a three year period already.
Even as the Cold War Pershing missile crises created a great cultural and political conflict in the 1979-1983 period in Germany, the Central European lands, and Eastern European states, this trans-Siberian pipeline connecting and anchoring East and West Europe economically, continued to be put into place—and extended itself right through (and underneath) the Strawberry fields a few kilometers southwest of the American military base and airport named Ramstein.
In short, just under the noses of the U.S. military and the rise of America’s national defense in the 1980s, Western Europe was looking to tie itself eve- more peacefully into economic, political and cultural exchange with peoples on various continents—even with stronger relations to Reagan’s evil empire, the Soviet Union.
This meant that exchanges in terms of know-how and economy would be increased throughout the decade of the 1980s.