Planting Fields of Hope

A few months ago, I wrote about my visit to a Foods Resource Bank (FRB) overseas program in Guatemala.  Last week, Executive Director Amy Gopp; our colleague from Church World Service, Don Tatlock; George and Norma Armstrong from First Christian Church in Valparaiso, IN; and I attended FRB’s Annual Meeting in Gaithersburg, Maryland. 

Along with discussing the new FRB strategic plan and engaging a panel on the roles of development organizations, USAID, land grant universities, and the private sector on  food security in Washington, DC, we also made a pilgrimage to a local FRB Growing Project: The Grossnickle “Field of Hope” in Myersville, MD.

The Myersville Project, hosted by Grossnickle Church of the Brethren, and also sponsored by several other local Brethren Churches, a United Church of Christ and a local Catholic Church, was just an hour or so from Washington, DC, but the rolling hills were filled with crops, farmhouses, and all of the things that make rural life unique. We were treated to an amazing potluck dinner, complete with a growing project-themed cake and a sample of ugali and sukuma wiki, a staple of Kenya, where the Bamba Ganze project, sponsored by the Field of Hope, is located. We then loaded up on wagons and headed out on an old-fashioned hayride, which took us to a beautiful clearing down by a river where the Grossnickle church still holds its baptisms. We worshipped together and celebrated the harvest gifts of the year and the opportunity to contribute to the world we envision: one where hunger is but a memory, and as the prophet Micah imagined, justice rolls down like water. 

It was a great evening and altogether, a great meeting: part food security strategizing, part advocacy event, part family reunion, all church.

Growing projects are a unique way of getting local churches involved in working for food security all over the world. Essentially, churches pool together money to support a growing project, which can look like many things—some extra acreage managed by a local farmer, a community garden, a pumpkin patch that brings together the labor of a youth group and local retirees. The yield from that growing project—whether it is a share of what several head of cattle bring when sold at the stockyards, or the money that comes from fresh vegetables sold at a farmer’s market - then goes to support one of the many food security projects all over the world; these projects help people utilize their skills in new ways, creating opportunities for sustainable small-scale food production. To see a list of these innovative projects, click here.

Local growing projects take a good bit of work and coordination, but they are an amazing way to get churches—particularly rural churches—involved in making a big difference in fighting hunger all over the world. They can be joint ventures by small Disciples churches, a rural church with access to farmland can team up with a suburban or urban church with some financial resources to give, or it could emerge out of a local ecumenical effort—churches gathered together in a single community who want to do something to reach outside their town.

There are currently 12 growing projects sponsored by Disciples churches, and they are supporting tremendous work overseas. Week of Compassion has some special grant money set aside to help foster more growing projects, and we’d love to see more take off, whether it takes the form of a longstanding family farm’s labor of love or a local congregation’s experiment in urban agriculture or community gardening.

Love for one’s neighbor takes many forms, after all. 

If your church is interested in starting a local growing project, please e-mail Brandon at bgilvin@woc.disciples.org.