OTTAWA, Ill. — At a time when farmers’ bottom lines are feeling the bite of lower commodity prices, so are charities that benefit from the sale of farm commodities.“It makes a huge difference. It’s reducing what we can send,” Jerry Lundeen said. Lundeen is a board member of the Foods Resource Bank and the coordinator of its Somonauk Growing Project.
Foods Resource Bank is a Christian organization, based in Western Springs, that links urban and rural churches in growing projects that help people in developing nations grow and produce their own food.
Once a year, different growing projects come together for a harvest celebration. At the Randy and Judy Rosengren farm near Ottawa, 28 churches representing the Ottawa/Barrington, Earlville and Somonauk-area growing projects recently came together. More than 500 people attended.
“This is the party for us all to get together and have fun,” Lundeen said. Though faced with lower commodity prices, the pies still brought in the dough. “The first year we had the pie auction, we made $500 from the pies. We heard about it from a different FRB celebration, where they had a pie auction,” Lundeen said. At this year’s celebration, the pie auction brought in $10,000. “We had 47 pies, and they averaged $200 per pie,” he said.
Lundeen said the groups send a lump sum from the celebration to a chosen overseas project.
“All the money we make, we send it in together because we don’t want to be divisive in our groups. We send it all in as a group, and we raised over $17,000 that day,” Lundeen said.
Originally, the growing projects linked urban congregations with rural congregations and local farmers, with the urban churches supplying funds to purchase seed and inputs for local farmers to grow crops and livestock, which were harvested with the proceeds going to overseas projects. Nowadays, the projects include events such as 5K run/walks and those that use each region’s common agricultural products.
“Just our three growing projects together, we’ve raised just under $790,000 in the 11 or 12 years we’ve been doing this,” Lundeen said.
The overseas projects are aimed at helping people feed themselves. “In sub-Saharan Africa, a lot of it is a water component. We provided funds to help build a pond in Kenya to capture water from the rainy season to sustain them until the next rainy season. It’s called a water pan,” Lundeen said.
Taste Of Farm Life
Lundeen said the Harvest Celebration offered opportunities for urban guests to experience farm life. Several combines moved through a field of corn that was saved for the harvest celebration. “We did the combine rides, and that is such a unique perspective. People were so excited about those. We try to close those by 2:30 or 3, we were still giving combine rides at 4:30,” he said.
Local FFA and school groups, including Somonauk/Leland/Sandwich FFA, Earlville FFA and the Sandwich High School National Honor Society, participated. Events included horse and wagon rides, pedal tractor races for children, tours of the farm, horseshoeing and sheep shearing demonstrations, wool felting, basketmaking and a stream table from the La Salle County Soil and Water Conservation District. Some of the corn was harvested as ear corn and a corn shelling demonstration was part of the festivities.
One of the highlights of the event is an all-day wheat milling demonstration that plays an important role in uniting the different congregations. “One of the main things we do is we mill wheat. The blessing we use with this is we share that flour with the 28 churches involved,” Lundeen said. He said each church is asked to make communion bread with the flour from the celebration, which starts with a worship service at which the flour is distributed.
“We use it around Thanksgiving in a communion service. By that means, we are communing together in our own traditions. That is a really moving connection,” Lundeen said.
By Jeannine Otto, contact at 815-223-2558, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Otto.