FRB growing project in SW Michigan raises over one million dollars in ten years of “growing lasting solutions to hunger”

FRB growing project in SW Michigan raises over one million dollars in ten years of “growing lasting solutions to hunger”

A passionate collaborative effort by six local churches and volunteers has helped a local Foods Resource Bank (FRB) Growing Project exceed $1 Million in proceeds for overseas food security. 

After 10 years of harvesting crops for the Foods Resource Bank through the partnership with growers and volunteers, the Kalamazoo County-Calhoun County growing project has raised $1,007,018 for world hunger by 2013. 

Farmers and volunteers from the community and participating churches -- Climax United Methodist, Newton United Methodist, Pine Grove Mennonite, Portage United Church of Christ, Scotts United Methodist, Wakeshma Community Church – brought this about with collaboration and teamwork. 

The local effort is the first FRB growing project nationwide to have reached one million dollars in growing project dollars that support small holder farmers in growing their own food in some of the world’s most challenging places. 

Rural church members and friends donated the annual use of land. Farmers donated their time, equipment, and management expertise. Everyone worked hard to get donations of seed, herbicides and insecticides, and fertilizer. They grew crops – mostly corn and soy – that was sold on the local market in the U.S., and sent the proceeds to FRB to be used overseas on food security programs at the village level. 

The local funding has brought practical solutions to hunger and poverty to families overseas supported by FRB programs in Kenya, Armenia, Bolivia, Paraguay, Zambia, Palestine, Nicaragua, and Colombia, India, Mozambique, Honduras, and Serbia. No food or grain was shipped: this program is not a handout but a hand up. 

C.T.S. Telecom owner Gilbert Collver, who joins his wife Lila as active participants in the program, feels a big key to the success of the program locally was a domino effect that took place after a number of individuals embraced the idea when he invited Norm Braksick, the director of the local Foods Resource Bank in Kalamazoo County, to speak at the Climax Rotary Club. 

Collver, who pledged the annual use of 46 acres of land on P Avenue in Climax Township he and Lila own, said the idea was well received by local Rotary Club members. That led to a warm reception by the Climax and Scotts United Methodist Churches and eventually local community members and agricultural leaders wanted to get involved as the idea spread. 

“The fundamental key is we’re an agricultural community, but it was networking where it picked up speed and started to play well in the local area,” said Collver, who met Braksick who was speaking at a Vicksburg Rotary Club meeting, inspiring the local businessman to invite him to speak at the Climax club. 

As local residents and agricultural leaders learned about the idea, it wasn’t long before there were many contributors to the local Foods Resource Bank project, giving it a positive jolt that continues today. 

“Little by little, the acreage under commitments grew and grew and grew. And the price of corn tripling didn’t hurt either,” adds Collver. 

Collver stressed the collaborative effort between local businesses, and partnerships with local farmers and community members have been pivotal in the outreach of the program. 

Pledging land to use for the program has been huge, but business partners have been generous with seed and fertilizer donations or sales at reduced prices. Local landowners have donated the annual use of acres , and local farmers have donated the use of their equipment, time and expertise to harvest the crops for the program. 

The project’s farm partners include: Christophel Farms – Eldon, Robert & Sanford; Pine Grove Mennonite Church, Tom & Leanell Schwartz; Jan & Nellie Lou Vosburg; Tim Vosburg; Gary Gensch; Keith & Ellen Ball; Eric & Michelle Hiscock; Russell & Joann Myers; Doug & Theresa Myers; Gil & Lila Collver; Richard & Dawn Myers; Jack & Melanie Manis; Bob & Martha Gibson; Jim & Theresa Elwell; Wayne & Peggy Elwell; John & Jennifer Knowles; Dennis Schug; Peter & Chris Bailey; Pete Schrontz; Norm Turnier. 

At a recent fall harvest celebration, Tillers International staff demonstrate oxen and old-fashioned equipment while modern combines do the harvesting. Volunteers for the Kalamazoo County-Calhoun County Growing Project have raised over a million dollars for Foods Resource Bank so that farmers overseas can grow their own food. Photo credit: Bruce Hood.

Seed suppliers include Green Valley Ag, Caledonia, LaRaine Salmon for N/K, Asgrow, DeKalb Seeds; Mycogen Seeds, George Galloway, Dow Agro Sciences, Otsego, MI; Great Lakes Hybrids, John Herbst – Battle Creek. Fuel Supplier -- Crystal Flash, Cliff Lipscomb. Grain Marketing -- Battle Creek Farm Bureau; Bunge, Inc., Decatur, IN; Ag lenders -- Green Stone Farm Credit, Greg Hotchkins; Ag equipment – John Deere Corporation; Audio/Visual, AVS Inc., Bruce Hood; FRB, Bev Abma. 

Over these ten years the project’s “city partner” – Portage United Church of Christ members and friends – provided $193,394 in “extra-mile cash giving” for the FRB project, to help cover any crop input items not donated, so that all of the proceeds from the annual crops could go to FRB. Portage UCC members saw their cash multiply over 5 times because of the unique leveraging effect of the growing project model. 

In the 10 years, the local FRB growing project has helped to bring food security specifically to over 105,000 people for less than $10 per person per year. That’s an average of 5,835 individuals in 18 communities that the area efforts have helped with seeds, tools, drip irrigation, training, farmer field schools, nutrition education, small animals for protein, water catchment, and more. Whatever was identified by the farmers and their communities to begin growing their own food sustainably, to feed their families and have enough extra to share, barter or sell for income to purchase needed medicines and household staples and get all their children in school. 

In addition to these primary beneficiaries are untold numbers of family members and neighbors and nearby communities who benefit from the shared knowledge of improved farming practices, or from the availability of food produced by the program farmers. The overseas programs supported by the local growing project are implemented by FRB and UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) for the United Methodist Church; FRB and MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) for the Mennonite Church; and CWS (Church World Service) for the United Church of Christ/One Great Hour of Sharing. FRB’s remaining 12 member organizations are mainline Christian organizations, or their agencies, which also have in-country presence and proven indigenous partners to carry out the programs. 

FRB’s website contains a wealth of information on each overseas program and how growing project dollars have helped people lift themselves out of poverty toward hopeful, healthy, productive lives. 

FRB has become a positive force for change for literally millions of people around the globe who now experience the dignity and hope of providing food for their families. The Kalamazoo County-Calhoun County Growing Project is proud of its part in FRB’s effort of “growing lasting solutions to hunger.” 

The growing project invites you to become involved. Every person has some unique gift to give to the effort to overcome world hunger. Please contact Keith Ball (269-979-2171) or Norm Braksick (269-806-0502) to discuss the many ways you might participate. 

07/11/2013 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment