My father-in-law is an audio-visual producer and had just finished doing a show for a large company. During the show, the company introduced a humanitarian effort that it was undertaking in Malawi, Africa, where they operated a school to teach people how to farm. He introduced me to the speaker who happened to be on the board of directors for another non-profit organization called Self-Reliant Agriculture
( http://www.selfreliantagriculture.org/ ).
The man, Brent, wanted to get in touch with me as soon as possible, as they had a project that they needed my help with. Brent helped me get in touch with the VP of Self-Reliant Ag, Tom, who explained that their mission was to teach farmers how to feed their families AND produce a cash crop on a 1 hectare (2.47 acres) farm. They were in the process of developing a curriculum at Utah State, which would be taken to universities in Peru, Ecuador, and eventually sub-Saharan Africa. Part of this curriculum was to have a farm at Utah State that would act as a demonstration plot for potential donors to the cause, and as a lab for the curriculum. The problem, he said, was that they didn't have anyone to manage the farm, and that the dean wasn't interested in giving us land without a manager.
I explained to Tom that I was planning on being gone for the summer, but that I would see what I could do to help out. I met with professors and extension agents who all explained that it would be impossible to get a farm going this summer because not only was it late in the year, but because SRA had no plan of crops to be grown, how much seed would be needed, how to cultivate and irrigate, etc. So I smiled, thanked them for their time, and then I hit the library!
Some of these are mine, and I read most of them cover to cover for this project.
The longer I studied and worked on the project, the more I felt like I needed to dedicate myself to this farm this summer. I felt like this would be the path that would connect me to opportunities to teach farming in other countries, not to mention the fact that it would save us a bundle of money in gas and lodging for North Carolina. So one night, I called the director of the internship and explained that I had some pressing issues at home that would prevent me from coming. I mainly blamed it on my aging grandma, though.
After a week and a half of late nights, many phone calls, more meetings with professors and extension agents, and a lot of praying, I was able to come up with a farm design, which I just presented to the president of SRA. He loved it. The professors and extension agents present at the presentation that had met me previously with such skepticism now saw that this could really happen and have voiced their support of my project!
Now all we need to do is talk to a few people and see if Utah State can find it in their hearts to let us use a small part of their land for this project.
So, if all goes well, this summer, it's legit farming for me! I am so excited to tell you all about the sustainable practices that I have incorporated into the design and how they work! Just a preview: I'm planting corn, beans, potatoes, alfalfa, and a huge vegetable garden. There will be a goat or two for milk and meat, and rabbits, also for meat. All of this to feed a family of 6 on only 1 acre! If this design succeeds, we will be able to teach it in Piura, Peru where they are now having a devastating drought. Smaller acreage means less water usage! Check back for more updates!