“Things Just Fall into Place”: Disciples Supporting Food Security

By Dana Schrader, Intern, Foods Resource Bank 

Growing project members pose in  front of the blueberry bushes at Bluejay Orchard with overseas guest, Zayda Reyes, from the Mateare Carazo Program in Nicaragua.

Growing project members pose in  front of the blueberry bushes at Bluejay Orchard with overseas guest, Zayda Reyes, from the Mateare Carazo Program in Nicaragua.

Hiram Christian Church in Hiram, Ohio, launched a Foods Resource Bank (FRB) growing project last year, creating a great example of a community working creatively at the local level to impact global food security. Talk of starting a growing project (GP) began after a meeting with FRB’s Alex Morse, Hiram Christian Church Disciples of Christ (DOC) minister Roger McKinney, and community members including former Hiram College Chaplain and project volunteer Jon Moody, Bluejay Orchards owners Lowell and Mary Evans, and maple farmer Nathan Goodell from Goodell Farms.  Their brainstorming soon inspired four congregations in three churches to come together and engage volunteers from nearby Hiram College to work for food security in Latin America and the Caribbean.   

In 2013, Lowell and Mary Evans donated a row of blueberry bushes from their orchard. Jessica Bessner, Hiram College student and volunteer project coordinator, organized and led the blueberry picking. Volunteers raised $2,000 from a 600 lb. harvest ofblueberries. The group donated the profits to FRB to support an overseas program in the Dominican Republic. By 2014, project members had gathered the resources to tap maple trees on local church members Richard and Margaret Green-Masters’ land. A grant from Week of Compassion covered many of the start-up and ongoing costs for the project, including a gathering tank, pump, tubes, plastic sap collection bags, the maintenance of a 4- wheeler and trailer, and containers in which to package the syrup for sale.    

Project members also donated many of their own talents and resources to the maple syrup process. Nathan Goodell and his father took on a role of professional project advisors. They taught project participants about the maple syrup process from tapping to bottling, and they boiled the collected sap from the Green- Masters’ land along with their own. They also donated spiles (or taps), tanks and trucks for transport, fuel for the evaporator, and bottling equipment. The Greens provided gas for the 4-wheeler used in collecting sap. A volunteer rebuilt the trailer for the 4-wheeler. Hiram College students cleaned out industrial-size soy sauce buckets for sap collection. The pieces of the puzzle began coming together. Volunteer Ron Etling came forward as a key problem solver in the last part of the preparation process. He advised students on proper attire for tree tapping, made a list of things still needed for the project, and drove the 4- wheeler, all the while helping to collect sap, and tying up the project’s loose ends. 

Jessica Bessner secures a plastic bag to a tree tap for sap collection.

Jessica Bessner secures a plastic bag to a tree tap for sap collection.

The process of maple syrup production in northeastern North America begins in winter. Maple trees absorb water from the soil upward into the tree. Once winter starts, the water and maple sap freeze in the trees. For about 4 weeks, generally starting in late February, the sap begins to thaw with warmer temperatures during the day and then freezes again at night, building pressure within the trees. This natural process creates an ideal condition for extracting maple sap. At this time, a hole is drilled and a spile is inserted into a maple tree so that the pressure built up will cause the sap to drip out into plastic bags, buckets, or plastic tubes.    

The Goodells use a system of plastic tubing on their farm to extract sap from maple trees. The tubing from about 4,900 taps runs downhill, and is suctioned by a vacuum pump into large tanks in the sugarhouse. On the Green-Masters’ land, Hiram GP participants attached plastic bags to about 225 taps and then used plastic buckets to collect the sap. They dumped the buckets into a gathering tank on the trailer that was connected to the 4-wheeler. Next, the contents of the gathering tank were pumped into a larger tank on a truck, and taken to the Goodells’ farm to be processed with the rest of the sap. At this point, excess water was filtered out through a reverse osmosis dehydrator, removing about half of the water, and was then transferred to the evaporator where the sap was boiled down into syrup.    

The project was a strong community effort, collecting a total of about 2,000 gallons of sap, and resulting in 52 gallons of syrup. Hiram GP members bottled the final product, and will sell 200 pints at $10/pint and 105 quarts at $17/quart. The group held a pancake supper for the 30 volunteers to enjoy some of the season’s maple syrup. An expected donation of $3,500 from the syrup sales will support an FRB program in Colombia.   

“Our growing project fits who we are as a community,” explained Jon Moody. “Leaders and volunteers showed up right when we needed them. We learned how important it is to provide for food production for those in the world who don’t have enough to eat. When a community puts their creative ideas into a collective effort, things just sort of fall into place.” 

To learn more about the partnership between Week of Compassion and Foods Resource Bank and how local congregations can launch a growing project, contact WoC Associate Director Brandon Gilvin.

Children Disaster Services Seeks Coordinator for Contract Position

Our partners at Children’s Disaster Services (CDS), a program of the Church of the Brethren, are seeking a consultant to facilitate the expansion of the program in key Gulf Coast Areas.  This is a contract position reportable to the associate director of CDS. 

The regional coordinator role is key for the success of the expansion along the Gulf Coast. This part-time paid staff person will network with potential partners, engage congregations, and help facilitate new volunteer workshops, and must live in a Gulf Coast state. Details for this position are available here. This position will likely average around 20 hours of time a week, though some events may require more time.

For more information about the regional coordinator position, or if you or your congregation would like to know more about Children’s Disaster Services or be trained in rapid response volunteer leadership, contact CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller at 410-635-8734 or  kfry-miller@brethren.org.

This Week’s Responses:

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Iowa, Tornado Damage
China, Landslide Relief
Colorado, Flood/Storm Damage
Missouri, Tornado Damage (8)
Philippines, Hurricane Relief
Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Flood Relief