Farms are familiar places to Quad-City refugees, who emigrate to America from places such as the Congo.

The dairy business owned by David and Amy Petersen was something else.

On Wednesday, about 30 members of the Family Literacy Program at the Spring Forward Learning Center, Rock Island, toured the Petersen farm. Chattering mothers with children and some older gentlemen in tow, they checked out a calving shed, milk processors and more.

Amy Petersen was the host, showing the adults how a working farm in Iowa operates. She spoke slowly and carefully, as some of the farm's visitors are still learning the English language.

"We have 450 acres right here, and this is a small farm," Petersen told the crowd.

The farm is as self-supporting as possible, with just the right number of cows, to generate the right amount of fertilizer, to raise the right amount of food to feed the cattle.

"It takes three acres of land to feed one cow," she said, and talked about the fertile soil on the farm, a Century Farm called "Majestic Manor." It is located in Muscatine County about three miles northwest of Blue Grass.

One challenging topic to explain was embryo transfers to help breed high-producing cows. Petersen said it was important to have good parents to have good offspring, and visitors seemed to understand the concept.

A woman from the Congo said families raise cattle in Africa but there are no barns with roofs.

All the cows on the farm are females, Petersen said, as the male calves are sold to a neighbor who raises them for meat. 

Maria Hernandez directs the Family Literacy Program, part of the Spring Forward center. The beef is processed in an operation, such as Tyson Foods, where some relatives of the families work, she said.

The farm tour was an end-of-the-year trip that Spring Forward officials thought would interest the adult students, said Dan McNeil, executive director.

That it did, according to Hadeel Janabi of Rock Island.

"I like farms," she said, adding that some day, she and her family would like to live on a farm.

Esperance Nyadwa of Rock Island is from the Congo, where her family did not have cattle but raised hens instead. She liked seeing the young calves in the calving barn.

Spring Forward adopted the Family Literacy Program in 2016, McNeil said; it used to be operated by Black Hawk College, but Illinois budget cuts made that impossible to continue.

It's a year-to-year challenge for nonprofits, including Spring Forward, to find funding sources to keep alive programs like this one.

"We hope to operate the Family Literacy program in the same capacity next year," McNeil said.

The busiest place on the farm ended up in the Petersen's large garage, where the visitors enjoyed chocolate chip cookies, served with milk, of course.