Farmers, churches help overseas farms via Foods Resource Bank

Farmers, churches help overseas farms via Foods Resource Bank

Richard Aparco of Peru stood nervously before about 50 people at Assumption Parish in O'Fallon and discussed crop rotation and yields, organic fertilizer, greenhouses, irrigation and more.
An agronomist coordinator of a Foods Resource Bank program in Peru coordinated by Lutheran World Relief, Aparco added a bushel of thanks to supporters of the Christian response to world hunger.

Speaking with the help of translator Alex Morse of Kansas City, Kan., the first-time visitor to the United States was nervous about speaking. He was in awe of the group, which included operators of farms dozens times larger than those on the hillsides of the Andes Mountains. Assumption Parish hosted the meeting for area congregations to learn about the work of the Foods Resource Bank in linking the U.S. agricultural community and urban and rural churches with small-holder farmers in developing countries.

Assumption Parish raises funds to support Rosie and Paul Guetterman, farmers from Bucyrus, Kan., who have 10,000 acres and donate a portion of their corn, soybeans and wheat to farmers in Africa and elsewhere. Assumption became involved in the growing project 11 years ago as a way of reaching out on a global level.

The Peruvian program assists 120 families in eight communities with growing and marketing healthier local varieties of potatoes and a diversity of vegetables as well as small livestock. Some of the accomplishments are basic but make a big difference in hygiene, such as teaching families to build shelves to keep their dishes and cooking essentials off of dirt floors.

In supporting and training small-scale farmers in adopting appropriate farming techniques and improved access to water, the Foods Resource Bank works with partners such as Catholic Relief Services and supporting organizations such as Bread for the World, The Alliance to End Hunger and the John Deere Foundation.

Jim Schmidt, a corn and soybean farmer from Polo, Ill., began with 20 acres devoted to the project and has increased the acreage every year. Local businesses and churches have participated. His motivation is that "we're commanded by Christ to help those who need assistance" — teaching them how to provide food for themselves.

Steve Witt, a Clinton, Iowa, corn, soybean and hog farmer, detailed the expenses of planting a crop — funds paid for by Growing Project congregations and businesses. His commitment to the project was strengthened by a visit to an agricultural development program in the Dominican Republic that receives funds from the Food Resource Bank.

"We don't know how blessed we are here until we see how other people live," Witt said, adding that helping farmers in their home countries become more productive "will do a lot for world peace" because it will help end hunger and poverty.

Jim Rufenacht, an Archbold, Ohio, cattle farmer, has been involved with the Foods Resource Bank for 10 years. He visited a program in Kenya and saw the benefits of a dam that was built for just $30,000. "I believe that God calls us to give what he has blessed us with," Rufenacht said.

Arlyn Schipper, a farmer from Conrad, Iowa, called his involvement "the right thing to do. We farm prime land with good equipment. It's always bothered me that I could be asked on judgment day what I did to stop a child from dying from malnutrition and disease. Working with the Foods Resource Bank gives me a lot of peace in my soul." Schipper visited and worked on a farm in Africa, planting peanuts using an ox and yoke. "I was used to auto steer and couldn't find the button," he joked.Funding from the Foods Resource Bank has helped that farm community with their peanut crop and with a fish farm.

Beth Knobbe of Catholic Relief Services said that converting U.S. crops to cash to support overseas farmers makes sense. It puts resources into the hands of organizations that have the expertise to help farmers become self-sufficient, Knobbe said.

Joy Kauffman of Tiskilwa, Ill., visited a project in Uganda that helped farmers convert soybeans into soy milk. The effort focused on improving nutrition, and it's made a difference, Kauffman explained. "So many things are possible when we use our talents and treasures," she said. 

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations statistics this year put the number of hungry people in the world at 795 million. The Foods Resource Bank is making a difference in helping people grow enough food to live healthy and productive lives.

Each year more than 200 U.S. growing projects, volunteers, companies, and organizations raise $3.5 million to $4 million to support 50-60 overseas programs. To administer these programs, the Foods Resource Bank works through a network of 16 member organizations and local partner organizations in more than 29 countries.

The programs focus on developing small-holder agriculture, often in the most remote and poorest regions of the world. When provided with training and basic inputs such as seeds or small tools, farmers increase their harvest and their food security.

To view a video about the program that Assumption Parish in O'Fallon created for a fundraiser in 2014, visit www.stlouisreview.com/Tua.

For information on how to get involved, call Sarah Beams at Assumption Parish in O'Fallon at (636) 240-3721. Contributions can be sent to Foods Resource Bank, P.O. Box 5628, Carol Stream, IL 60197-5628 or online at www.foodsresourcebank.org. 

By Joseph Kenny | jkenny@archstl.org 

Read the original article on the St. Louis Review.

02/26/2016 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment