A new bond of friendship and hope was formed Saturday afternoon between a Douglas County farmer and a Cuban government official.
It began at the kitchen table in Mark and Brenna Wulfkuhle's home and culminated with a tour of farming operations at their 3,500-acre Rocking H Ranch, 198 N. 1250 Road.
"We're just happy to show them what we have here in the United States," Mark Wulfkuhle said shortly before meeting Sergio Martinez, a representative of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, D.C.
After more than an hour of conversation, both Mark Wulfkuhle and Martinez were hopeful that one day the United States and Cuba would be able to help each other through agricultural trade.
"It would be good business for us," Martinez said.
Martinez's visit with the Wulfkuhles was organized by the Kansas Farm Bureau and Chad Tenpenny, who works for the St. Louis law firm of Tighe, Patton, Armstrong, and Teasdale. The firm is involved in international trade matters, Tenpenny said.
Tenpenny also is a former aide to U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., which is how he came to know Martinez, he said.
Earlier Saturday, Martinez toured the Don and Edith Ernzen's family farm near Easton in Leavenworth County.
Mark Wulfkuhle, who operates a cattle and grain farming business, would welcome the addition of Cuba as a U.S. agriculture customer. For decades the United States has had a trade ban in effect against Cuba.
Cuba imports about 80 percent of its food, much of it coming from China and other Asian countries, as well as from South America, Martinez said. Transportation costs would be considerably reduced if trade were allowed with the United States, he said.
Cuba also would like to be able to import fertilizer from the United States, Martinez said. Fertilizer now purchased from South American countries is expensive and the quality is not good, he said.
"I believe there has been more awareness of this recently," Mark Wulfkuhle said.
Martinez agreed. "That's what my visit is all about," he said.
Martinez said he has found the attitude of Americans toward Cubans to be good.
"We find there is no animosity toward us and I think that if you go to Cuba you will find the same thing," Martinez said.
Before beginning his tour of the farms, Martinez met with Kansas Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer in Overland Park, Tenpenny said. Saturday night Martinez planned to meet with Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh in Topeka.