Foods Resource Bank Blog

A Senior Moment

A trip of a lifetime lay ahead of me. I was going half way around the world to Laos and Thailand, to a world I knew little about. For weeks prior to my departure, I busied myself preparing for this adventure; studying about the countries, getting my immunizations. Anxiety and excitement surged over me all at the same time. Packing became a major ordeal. After all, I take 3 weeks to pack for a long week end and THIS was 3 weeks halfway around the world! I’ll take my grey slacks (they won’t show the dirt); I’ll pack my black slacks too (they’ll show even less dirt). Don’t forget my Khakis (for dress-up), throw in a skirt or two, some hiking shoes, some walking shoes, and oh, don’t forget the sandals.  Find a place to shove in the hand sanitizer, a head lamp (for those nighttime treks to the latrine…I think that’s just an “uppity” word for outhouse), some sunscreen, insect repellent, a trekking pole, some Kleenex and baby wipes (I’d heard stories about those “no toilet tissue” places, and I figured, if these work for babies, they would be just fine for me). Don’t forget the long undies for the cold nights in the mountain villages, and the short undies for the hot humid days in town. Remember to pack the allergy pills, the Tylenol, the cold tablets, the Band-Aids, the lip balm, the Dramamine, the sinus tablets and anything else a good pharmacy could put in a suitcase.

01/19/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

A Youthful Reminder

Part of Foods Resource Bank’s strategic plan is to involve young people in the growth and development of its programs. This is the perfect time of year to go to the FRB website at www.foodsresourcebank.org to see how you can help support FRB in a variety of ways, in a number of different countries.

It was so exciting to hear of the travels of Nicholas Kuperus and Abby Genzink to Africa on an FRB program visit this summer, but prior to their departure a part of me thought, why weren’t their seats made available to other “more experienced/mature” individuals who could appreciate this opportunity more?  How could the world of Xbox, Wii, Facebook and Twitter be set aside long enough to make this trip meaningful?

01/16/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Sugar beets sweeten the Pigeon MI growing project

Newsletter: 

When you work for FRB, you talk to the most interesting people from the most fascinating growing projects! I just got off the phone with Burt Keefer from the Pigeon MI growing project in Michigan’s “thumb.” (For those who don’t understand the reference, just look at any map of MI – or the U.S. – to see our state’s mitten shape and our famous thumb.)


The Pigeon growing project is unique in that, in addition to soy and corn, they grow white winter wheat, edible beans like navy beans (for your pork ‘n’ beans!), “black turtle soup” beans (for your black beans and rice), and sugar beets. Michigan’s thumb area is a large producer of sugar beets for the refined sugar industry. Thinking of garden beets, I asked Burt, “What do they do with all the red?” Well, there isn’t any red in sugar beets!  They kind of look like huge turnips, pale and elongated, not round like a red beet.

01/10/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

What Motivates FRB Board Chair, Bill Adams.

Because it’s been obvious to me that long term sustainable development is necessary to address the real issues of hunger and poverty in our world, it is a great privilege for me to serve on the board of directors of the Foods Resource Bank (FRB).  After retiring from business, I responded to the 2003 call from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) to run their Disaster Response Services program. (CRWRC) is a founding member agency of FRB).  There is a great need in the world today for organized and compassionate assistance when disasters strike and I am proud to be part of an organization that delivers help in the form of volunteer labor, food and other relief services to disaster stricken communities all around the world.  But CRWRC is also committed to the long term development of communities, going way beyond the immediate recovery from the effects of a natural disaster.  Therein lies the basis for CRWRC’s partnership with FRB.

01/09/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Consider the Conservation Stewardship Program for FRB

Newsletter: 

I listened to Roger Thurow, author of the book Enough, describe the problems of people trying to survive and grow food in Kenya.  He described how our government’s foreign aid to help fund improvements to the food production system in starving countries has dropped—at one time, we provided $8 billion.  That number recently has been $1 billion.  As the problems of hunger in Africa and other parts of the world have escalated, our help has evaporated, eroded, washed away.

Below is an idea that can raise a LOT of money for FRB and FRB sponsored overseas programs.  It starts at the same place all growing projects start---with U.S. farmers.  No one will need to go ask or lobby for funding.  It uses a relatively new agricultural program that’s available to all farmers. Here’s the concept:

12/27/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

The Weight of a Snowflake- A Christmas Parable

"Tell me the weight of a snowflake," a sparrow asked a wild dove.

"Nothing more than nothing," was the answer.

"In that case I must tell a marvelous story," the sparrow said. "I sat on a branch of a fir tree, close to its trunk, when it began to snow, not heavily, not a giant blizzard, no, just like in a dream, without any violence. Since I didn't have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch - nothing more than nothing, as you say - the branch broke off."

12/24/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Pigeon MI Growing Project Honors Farmer Merlin Yoder by Bev Abma

Newsletter: 

This past weekend, in a community in Michigan’s thumb where more windmills dot the landscape each time I visit, I attended a bittersweet event at the Pigeon River Mennonite Church: a harvest celebration coupled with a memorial service for longtime FRB farmer Merlin Yoder.

The day started out with two wonderful dramas, "The Empty Room" and "The Case of the Frozen Saints" during morning Sunday School and worship. Community members then shared a meal to celebrate their growing project's bountiful harvest. Growing project committee member Don Ziel battled the wind as he prepared enough chicken, on a grill he designed himself, to combine with the wide selection of hot dishes, salads and desserts in abundance for the enjoyment of all present.

12/19/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Food: One Family at a Time (A Photographic Exhibit)

It’s a good thing I don’t get all my information about the world from the media: if I did, I might feel negative and hopeless.  Instead, my spirits are lifted just sitting at my desk here at FRB as I learn more every day about the countless, compassionate, caring, visionary people and organizations that are actually helping to bring about good will, justice, food security and a better life to their neighbors all over the globe.

A photo exhibit in the Kalamazoo-Portage MI area shows the good that four of these organizations are accomplishing for others  based right here, close to home.

12/15/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Children Give Up Treat to Help Others In Need

Newsletter: 

This charming entry was written by Joni VandenBosch. Joni is the daughter-in-law of Jan and Lee VandenBosch, FRB office volunteers from Byron Center, MI.

Our family of six children, including Abigail (12), Micah (10), and Lucas (8), were working on a school project on Tanzania last spring .  They requested help from an FRB staff person for some of the needed props for their presentation.  

12/07/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Remembering Matt Wiley, organic farmer for the Schoolcraft UMC/Winchell Ave. Disciples Growing Project

Newsletter: 

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.

Norm Braksick

11/23/2011 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More