Browsing Category: Agriculture

Jason Streubel, Ph.D and director of agriculture for Convoy of Hope, sits on a Kubota tractor preparing the soil behind our World Distribution Center for a Community Garden. Jason Streubel, Ph.D and director of agriculture for Convoy of Hope, sits on a Kubota tractor preparing the soil behind our World Distribution Center for a Community Garden.

Cultivating Hope with Community Gardens

On a cloudy day in a field behind Convoy of Hope’s World Distribution Center in Springfield, Mo., Jason Streubel, Ph.D and director of agriculture for Convoy of Hope, sits on a Kubota tractor grinning from ear-to-ear.

Here, in the heart of the city of more than 160,000 residents, an eight-foot barbed wire fence surrounds land on one side. On the other, a deer darts into a wooded area. The smell of freshly-tilled soil fills the air.

Streubel will use this half-acre in collaboration with local universities to plant fall crops and conduct variety trials. The team will collect soil samples, monitor growth rates and yield, and harvest crops.

“This field allows us to do research,” says Streubel. “As our organization gains academic credibility, it opens up relationships so that we can improve our techniques and feed more children.”

According to Streubel, the study also provides opportunity for grants that can be used to develop agriculture initiatives worldwide. Community gardens like this one have also been launched to aid the working poor in targeted areas, like Detroit. In Haiti, 3,600 farmers have been trained by Streubel’s team in management practices specific to their region.Cultivating Hope 1 Cultivating Hope 3

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Biology professor Jason Streubel examines test plants in preparation for research into growing urban gardens. Biology professor Jason Streubel examines test plants in preparation for research into growing urban gardens.

Students research pop bottle gardening

How many people can you feed with plants grown in a two-liter bottle?

That’s not the kind of question you hear every day — unless you are doing research into urban agriculture, like Dr. Jason Streubel, associate professor of biology at Evangel University.

Streubel also leads the Agriculture Initiative of Convoy of Hope, and it is his work with this Springfield-based organization that has excited biology students at Evangel.

“In addition to our ongoing work in Haiti, we have started working with a group of urban pastors in Detroit,” said Streubel. “We are downsizing the concept of community gardens. We are teaching the pastors to ‘plant what you can, anywhere you can.’”

Since launching their efforts in Haiti, Streubel and his teams have trained 2,300 farmers in best management practices specific to their region and crops. They recently polled 400 farmers who reported a 250 percent increase in yield and an 80 percent increase in income as a result of Convoy’s education and seed program.

“So this year, my Evangel students are working on discovering the yield potential of various containers,” he said. “We know what to expect from traditional gardens. But we want to know what will grow in a common plastic bottle.”

Evangel students studied academic and professional publications last semester, and then established parameters to implement the spring research.

Beans will be planted in four types of containers in Evangel’s greenhouse — a simulated garden, 4-inch pots, one-liter plastic bottles and two-liter plastic bottles.

“This research directly correlates to everything we are doing at Convoy of Hope, from the inner city of Detroit to the fields of Haiti,” Streubel said.

“This is also an academic evaluation. We hope that our findings could be published and presented at The American Society of Agronomy meetings.”

Streubel is pleased that his collaboration gives students a hands-on experience and helps Convoy of Hope expand its work.

“It is my desire to inspire and equip the next generation of faith-based scientists working in organizations like Convoy of Hope and in universities around the world.”

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Winning with Beans in Haiti

Last week was historic for beans in Haiti. In partnership with Mission of Hope, a program partner in Haiti, our agronomy staff there has been working closely with farmers to increase crop yield in Turpin and Z’Oranje. Specifically in these regions we have focused on black bean production and our labors are bearing much fruit … or beans.

A group of 24 farmers approached our staff about the possibility of negotiating a large sale of black beans for our Children’s Feeding Initiative. In conjunction with the local church and farmers, our staff bought 8,250 lbs. of black beans. Throughout the discussion it was very important to all parties to ensure all aspects of local economy and markets were only positively impacted.

According to my math, these beans will contribute to almost 24,000 nutrient-rich meals, an ideal combination of protein, fiber and micronutrients, to the children in the initiative. That’s worth celebrating and congratulations are in order for our local agronomist, Manasse Mercilus, and his team who make progress toward local food security possible.

The local farmer wins, the local economy wins, the child wins and Haiti’s future wins.

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One of the Haitian farmers we work with prepares his field. One of the Haitian farmers we work with prepares his field.

The Field Season

I loved this time of year as a kid. I would spend time driving around the orchard on the Honda Trail 90 finishing up the u-pick cherry season.  The work at the mink ranch was in full swing as 7,000 new babies needed their shots and as the cold damp rainy weather finally left after the 4th of July. It’s time to look back at the ups and downs, blessings and lessons learned, to winterize the equipment and determine what to do for the next field season.

I have come to think of life in the terms of a field or growing season. In American agriculture and climate we are always trying to lengthen the season but in the end we generally get just one. This past growing season has been filled with blessings, challenges and adventure. However, it’s the future growing seasons that drive me forward.

The general consensus is that roughly 870 million people in the world are still chronically undernourished and 16 million of those are from developed countries (FAO, 2012 (1)). The world population is primed for an increase of 9.1 billion by 2050, which will demand a 60% increase in agricultural production. This increase has to also take into account the good soil that remains, sustainability, economic viability, yield increases on existing land, the ongoing debates over the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism) and total effect climate change on farmable lands (FAO, 2012 (2)).

As we roll into the fall of 2013 I am reminded that 2050 is just 37 field seasons away. If seasons remain reasonably stable when the first tractor breaks ground in 2050 I will only be 76.   As I look to the next growing season as a person who deals with farmers and some of the 870 million chronically undernourished daily, I am reminded of the lesson I learned growing up – every growing season is different and every growing season matters.

If I’m going to impact 2050 as husband, dad, farmer, preacher, runner or scientist, then this coming field season needs my full attention because growing season is in the field notes and almost closed.

At Convoy of Hope we work with farmers to give them the power of agricultural education because it gives them opportunity to change their future.  

FAO (1) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012.  The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 is published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. Released October 8, 2012.

FAO(2) World Agriculture Towards 2030/2050: The 2012 Revision.  ESA E Working Paper No. 12-03.   Released June 2012.   

 
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