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.
November 12, 2011- My month started with an interesting and learning filled trip with Bev Abma to North Korea. We were encouraged to meet the program partner and farmers on several farms. From here, I joined up with three FRB travelers from Iowa for a week in Timor Leste, an island nation off the west coast of Australia and one of the world's newest nations. Our member, CRS and their in-counter partner, CIACS, did a fantastic job hosting us! We spent time attending two training sessions along with farmers from two communities in Ossurua. We were taught new corn production and storage methods that will significantly impact the food security of the people we met. The scenery was breathtaking and I am definitely looking forward to our next trip back in 2013.
Today we are heading for Cambodia where we will visit a program with CRWRC. While on the plane from Timor to Australia I happened to sit behind a lawyer I met while attending a conference in Bulgaria in 2008. On landing in Australia we had a great time catching up and I learned more about his work in Timor where he has been with his wife for the last six years. No sooner had he connected with his next flight, I met a fellow Canadian who has been cycling around the world for the last two years. The world is full of interesting people and having the chance to hear their stories I feel spoiled.
Keep checking back for more on our trip and the stories we are collecting along the way.
Angela, FRB staff
Marv Baldwin is spending a week in Ethiopia as a guest of the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange. Below is a peek into his week and one of Ethiopia's main commodities.
| A poster promoting Ethiopia's coffee
Sorting coffee beans
A coffee grinder
Congratulations to Dave Stienstra, who submitted a heart warming video on behalf of the people in a land bank program in the mountainous region of Nicaragua. Here is a link to the winning video.