Posts in growing projects

An FRB Volunteer's Story


One warm spring day after church, my wife, Gladys, and I stopped at the table on the lawn manned by Marv Baldwin. He was explaining the Growing Project that was a joint endeavor between our First Congregational Church of Western Springs, IL and Park Congregational Church of Mazon, IL. Mazon is a farmland town about fifty miles from our church in suburban Chicago. He told us that FRB was tackling world hunger by helping third world villages establish sustainable improved agriculture that will allow them to feed themselves, earn a modest income and be able to pass along their new-found expertise to neighboring villages.

07/23/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Sweet Corn in Yolo County, California


I had the pleasure of visiting with Tom, Saskia and Fritz of the Yolo County growing project in Woodland, CA last week. Hosted by the David Presbyterian Church, Farmer Fritz and a highly motivated group of volunteers have been growing a quarter-acre of organic sweet corn on land donated by Fritz. Fritz prepared the soil and the group hand planted half the land while the other half was machine seeded. The groups has helped weed and will start harvesting this weekend. Churches throughout the county have been putting in their sweet-corn orders and I hope to get in on the action when I visit again next week, along with our guest from the India-Banka program, Dhrubaa.

07/19/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

What is a Growing Project?


Growing  Project.  I keep hearing that term, but what does it mean? Does growing something mean I have to put a seed in the ground, water and fertilize it so life springs forth?  Since I would consider myself a “city girl,” growing something isn’t at the top of my list of skills and I can definitely attest to having that well-known “brown thumb.”  Upon moving to Michigan, I soon learned that I was in the minority when it came to growing something. Then I began volunteering at Foods Resource Bank and found that term “growing project” just kept popping up everywhere. It was then I decided I needed to know more about what a growing project really was.

06/14/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Kelsey Reflects on Her Recent Visit with Frate Sole Olive Oil


Last month FRB staff, board directors, and some volunteers traveled to out to the West Coast to the Sacramento area. There were two purposes for this trip: first was to hold a board meeting and second was to explore the potential for growing project development on the west coast.
Before I left, I was told that in Northern California they grow a lot of rice. Being from the Midwest, this sounded exotic and exciting … and it was. As my plane circled closer black fields of rich soil and glassy water stretched out all directions. The air often has a musty tang of rotting stalks and wet soil. As we drove north out of Sacramento toward the university town of Chico the rice fields continued but their vast darkness was punctuated by orchards clustered on alternating sides of the road. Being January, none of the orchards had leaves so brown dormant skeletons stood in row after row. Some were tall and majestic with spreading branches and some were short, stubby and sparse while others were twisted and rough barked.

03/05/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Sugar beets sweeten the Pigeon MI growing project


When you work for FRB, you talk to the most interesting people from the most fascinating growing projects! I just got off the phone with Burt Keefer from the Pigeon MI growing project in Michigan’s “thumb.” (For those who don’t understand the reference, just look at any map of MI – or the U.S. – to see our state’s mitten shape and our famous thumb.)

The Pigeon growing project is unique in that, in addition to soy and corn, they grow white winter wheat, edible beans like navy beans (for your pork ‘n’ beans!), “black turtle soup” beans (for your black beans and rice), and sugar beets. Michigan’s thumb area is a large producer of sugar beets for the refined sugar industry. Thinking of garden beets, I asked Burt, “What do they do with all the red?” Well, there isn’t any red in sugar beets!  They kind of look like huge turnips, pale and elongated, not round like a red beet.

01/10/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Consider the Conservation Stewardship Program for FRB


I listened to Roger Thurow, author of the book Enough, describe the problems of people trying to survive and grow food in Kenya.  He described how our government’s foreign aid to help fund improvements to the food production system in starving countries has dropped—at one time, we provided $8 billion.  That number recently has been $1 billion.  As the problems of hunger in Africa and other parts of the world have escalated, our help has evaporated, eroded, washed away.

Below is an idea that can raise a LOT of money for FRB and FRB sponsored overseas programs.  It starts at the same place all growing projects start---with U.S. farmers.  No one will need to go ask or lobby for funding.  It uses a relatively new agricultural program that’s available to all farmers. Here’s the concept:

12/27/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Pigeon MI Growing Project Honors Farmer Merlin Yoder by Bev Abma


This past weekend, in a community in Michigan’s thumb where more windmills dot the landscape each time I visit, I attended a bittersweet event at the Pigeon River Mennonite Church: a harvest celebration coupled with a memorial service for longtime FRB farmer Merlin Yoder.

The day started out with two wonderful dramas, "The Empty Room" and "The Case of the Frozen Saints" during morning Sunday School and worship. Community members then shared a meal to celebrate their growing project's bountiful harvest. Growing project committee member Don Ziel battled the wind as he prepared enough chicken, on a grill he designed himself, to combine with the wide selection of hot dishes, salads and desserts in abundance for the enjoyment of all present.

12/19/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Children Give Up Treat to Help Others In Need


This charming entry was written by Joni VandenBosch. Joni is the daughter-in-law of Jan and Lee VandenBosch, FRB office volunteers from Byron Center, MI.

Our family of six children, including Abigail (12), Micah (10), and Lucas (8), were working on a school project on Tanzania last spring .  They requested help from an FRB staff person for some of the needed props for their presentation.  

12/07/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Remembering Matt Wiley, organic farmer for the Schoolcraft UMC/Winchell Ave. Disciples Growing Project


It was in the spring of 2001.  I was invited to speak after the morning service at Schoolcraft UMC. I gave the FRB “pitch” and opened it up for questions.  A hand went up in the back row.  “I can’t get excited about a program that would sell soybeans at 4 or 5 dollars a bushel.  How’d you like to sell ‘em for 10 or 12? I responded, “Well, I’ve never worked with an organic farmer before, but I would sure like to!”

And that started a wonderful relationship with my friend Matt Wiley.

At gatherings, Matt and I both knew why we were doing this – because, as Christians, this is what we are called to do – so we didn’t spend any time on it.  We had the luxury of talking about what we both love: farming.  It was a magnet that drew us together and we loved it.

Matt was a cutting-edge innovator, always hearing about and trying something new, like speakers sending sound waves over soybean leaves to encourage more efficient photosynthesis. I’d buy a gallon of fish emulsion for my garden: Matt would get a tanker load from the Gulf Coast to foliar-feed his corn. The growing project’s quarterly meetings with his city partner church were an education in farming, one of the many side benefits of FRB.

Matt “retired” from active farming this past year and rented out his land.  Then he worked with his renter, but they just couldn’t make organic farming work economically, so his farmland is now farmed conventionally.  The new farmer is now benefiting from 20 years of organic soil nurture: soybeans shoulder-high on a 6’ man.  Matt said, “Norm, I think we will have some spots that will hit 100 bushels per acre” … and so it will always remain in my mind as I recall Matt.

I don’t think Matt gave that much thought to Heaven.  He just assumed it.  Matt was a here-and-now type of guy: “How can I nurture what God has given us, and how can I make this earth and all of God’s people better?”

I will miss him. We will all miss him.

Norm Braksick

11/23/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More