Solving world hunger is an ongoing problem for all nations. One solution is to provide food, but another is to help the mostly poor, rural families in less developed countries who lack the means and education to grow their own food.
At Union Center Church of the Brethren Church near Nappanee, the congregation has embraced the philosophy of self-sufficiency for these areas of the world. The church uses the profit from its own farmland and members' land to finance educational projects and farm supplies through a nonprofit organization known as Foods Resource Bank.
As a Missions and Service commission member for the church, Carl Detwiler was looking for a venture with global outreach. He heard a Foods Resource Bank representative speak about fundraising plans to assist farm projects in Third World countries. The emphasis was on providing a lasting solution to world hunger rather than the quick fix.
Detwiler said. "It (FRB) is a self-help program for these people—a hand up rather than a hand out."
Others in the church had the same opinion, as Detwiler and the Foods Resource Bank growing project started in 2009 at Union Center. The church owned seven and a half acres that had been farmed by a member of the church, Max Schmucker. Schmucker agreed to continue to farm the ground, and over the years he has contributed time, fuel, machinery and other resources to aid in the project. Another member, Ed Pippenger Jr., dedicated 10 acres of his land toward FRB.
North Central Co-op's Justin Miller works with Mycogen, Cropland and DeKalb to provide either corn or soybean seed for the church field every year. The central portion of the acreage is used as a test plot for the seed companies. Miller and Mycogen sales representative David Mau weigh, moisture test and calculate yields for each variety as the crop is harvested. North Central Co-op additionally supports FRB by waiving spraying fees when herbicides or insecticides are applied.
This year, the field was planted with corn. Harvest Day was on Oct. 17 and church members were invited to ride the combine, share a meal and watch the harvest. Rachel Brink, FRB Growing Project and overseas program field manager, was on hand to talk about the Foods Resource Bank's mission.
Brink explained to the group that FRB is a Christian-based organization that raises money to support food security development projects for different denominations. All programs must be aimed at aiding the small farmers in impoverished areas of the world to become more food secure.
FRB researches projects thoroughly before any money is allocated and continues to oversee programs during implementation. For example, Brink just returned from touring FRB-funded farmer field schools in Cambodia and pig and chicken husbandry and marketing projects in Vietnam.
Before the Cambodian schools were started, families experienced two or more "hunger months" per year (times between planting and harvesting), Brink said. World Renew (Christian Reformed Church) instructors identified and educated individual farmers to use sustainable agricultural practices. In turn, these model farmers taught their peers how to manage chicken flocks, use less water to grow rice and reduce input costs for vegetable farming.As a result of the project, farm families have adequate food year-round as well as having the money to afford health care and their children's education, Brink added.
In another area of the world, Union Center contributes funds to FRB for projects in Nicaragua that work with indigenous farmers in areas vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes or mudslides. Farmers are taught how to stabilize and increase the fertility of their soil by using simple methods, according to the FRB website, Men and women learn how to use earthworms to enrich the soil, improve planting techniques and rotate crops rather than the slash and burn practice of past years to grow food.
Foods Resource Bank Growing Project committee members are able to select the program(s) they wish to support. FRB committee members at Union Center Church of the Brethren have allocated money to projects in the Dominican Republic and North Korea in previous years as well as Nicaragua.
Union Center FRB Growing Project committee member Kevin Ramer said that they are waiting for the money from this year's crop before deciding which FRB program will receive the funds. They do try to support Church of the Brethren projects, especially if they are opening a new venture. He added that over $80,000 have been raised for FRB by the church's Growing Project since 2009.
As published in The Farmer's Exchange by Holly Hahn Yoder. Click the link to see the orginal article.