Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Long Time F2F Volunteers Make Local Paper in River Falls, Wisconsin

Jerry Nolte & Tony Jilek are veteran F2F volunteers who have worked in Nicaragua for the past few decades, building upon the work and relationships they have developed in the country.  Both are retired University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) Agriculture professors. Jilek taught at UWRF in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science (CAFES) for 26 years and Nolte taught for 30. In addition to their continuous support to the Farmer to Farmer program, both Jilek and Nolte are active members of the Partners of the Americas' Wisconsin/ Nicaragua Chapter.

Yesterday, December 18th,  the River Falls Journal in Wisconsin wrote an article about their Farmer to Farmer trips and work with Nicaragua/Wisconsin Chapter.  Please check it out:

Nolte & Jilek in the field during their 2011 FTF trip

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Update from the Field: Planting Gardens in Haiti

US and Haitian farmers creating a garden with donated seeds
This week in Haiti, Farmer to Farmer volunteers and field staff are busy working together with a group of women in Lory to plant gardens, improve their seedling nursery, and advance their chicken production and processing.

Lory is a small town in the North of Haiti, about 10 km from Cap Haitian. The women in this community have made the most of the training they have received - beginning with small gardening and later moving on to rabbit production and now chicken production. They have expressed the desire to beautify their town and even explore future options for agri-tourism. Traditionally, Lory is known for the pottery that they hand-craft with the clay from their area.

The group in Lory recently received a follow-up visit by Master Gardener Tom Syverud from Wisconsin, focusing on organic production. Continuing with the momentum of this visit, currently in country are three farmers from Vermont - John Hayden, David Marchant, and Mimi Arnstein - also bringing an organic focus and a wide array of knowledge in chicken production and fruit and vegetable production. This team assignment will focus on ways to make community agriculture economically sustainable, including exploring micro-enterprise opportunities such as chicken processing and oil extraction from fruits and nuts.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Work Can Be Fun! An Action-Packed Staff Trip to "The Land of Many Waters"

Meghan, Kelvin and Chrissy on their way to visit hydroponic
producers in Essequibo.
From October 7 - 15, 2012, the F2F field team in Guyana was privileged to be able to host our colleagues from F2F Headquarters (HQ) in Washington, DC. The visitors were Mrs. Meghan Olivier, Deputy Director of the F2F Program and Ms. Chrissy McCurdy, our Program Officer. For a long time, Chrissy had been affiliated with F2F activities in Guyana via e-mails, photographs and second-hand information from her teammates and volunteers, but this was going to be her first visit to the “Land of Many Waters”. Guyana Field Staff wanted to ensure that the visit was both meaningful in terms of HQ staff exposure to as wide a range of activities as possible and, at the same time, experiential in terms of exposure to various local cuisine and sight-seeing.

Meghan presenting a hydroponic production sign to
producer, Verna D'Aguiar.
Because the F2F program has had activities in 6 of Guyana’s 10 administrative regions, it was possible to achieve both of these objectives. In Georgetown and the nearby East Coast of Demerara, Meghan and Chrissy met with several local F2F collaborating or potential collaborating agencies. These included the Ministry of Agriculture, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, St. Stanislaus College Farm, and and the Guyana School of Agriculture. These visits helped to strengthen existing relationships as well as to solicit ideas on areas for future F2F technical assistance.

In addition, Field Staff had an opportunity to showcase some recent successes resulting largely from F2F volunteer inputs. We visited several hydroponic shadehouse vegetable producers in various regions, beekeepers, and beneficiaries of organizational strengthening training. These visits took us across the mighty Essequibo River – 21 miles wide at the mouth - ,up the black water Pomeroon River; across the Berbice River Floating Bridge, and on to the Eastern tip of Guyana to Crabwood Creek (where we met F2F intern, Tristan Mohabir's, grandmother) and Molsen Creek, where we showed them Suriname across the Corentyne River. To the South, we took the HQ team to the Soeskdyke Linden Highway (part of the Guyana-Brazil road link) where they met with beekeeper, Uncle Charlie, and shadehouse operator, Anna, and also explored the dugout bauxite mines and sandpits in Linden.
Sigmund McKenzie showing what we're all about:
Cultivating Change!
Ryan Nedd , Meghan, Kelvin Craig and Chrissy at the
Guyana/Suriname Ferry Station - Suriname is just across the

Chrissy trying a freshly-picked guava
We in Guyana solemnly believe that all trips for F2F volunteers and staff must be experiential. So, in between the serious stuff, HQ had time to unwind and enjoy some Guyanese cuisine (cook-up rice, roti and curry, Guyanese fried rice, etc), fruits (star apple, West Indies cherry, golden apple, guava, etc), drinks (coconut water), and even a swim in the black water of Lake Mainstay. In fact, we counted at least 12 freshly picked fruits that Meghan and Chrissy tasted while here!

“In a coconut shell”, we here in Guyana would like to send many thanks to Program Director, Peggy Carlson, for organizing this visit. We were able to attend to a lot of serious matters while also laughing and having fun. Our local team enjoyed the entire week, which was very intense as there was a lot to do and see within a short period of time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beans, Beans: They're Good for More than Your Heart!

Distributing seeds.
In October, Farmer to Farmer veteran Ira Richards returned from Nicaragua after having successfully carried out a promotional campaign for the use of Mucuna pruriens, better known as the velvet bean. The plant, infamous for its itchiness, is widely used across the world as a forage, fallow and green manure crop, as it fixes nitrogen and fertilizes soil. Mr. Richards followed up with farmers producing the velvet bean as a nutrient supplement for their cattle and soils, providing technical assistance to further optimize the use of the beans in hopes that increased production and usage will result in better cattle nutrition, increased milk production, and more sustainable agriculture in general.

Velvet bean vines climbing a tree
Working with the dairy cooperative San Felipe de Boaco, Mr. Richards distributed 20 pounds of velvet bean seed for demonstration trials and seed multiplication for each of the 26 farmers who participated in a planned field day at the farm of Dr. Juan Ramón Aragón. The 20 pounds of seed was enough to plant half a block. Since May 2011, Farmer to Farmer has provided approximately 20 quintals of velvet bean seed to dairy cooperatives, private ranchers, and small farmers in the communities of Boaco, Camoapa, Rivas, and Carazo.

The simplest way farmers mention using the bean is feeding its pod husk to their livestock. Some farmers give a stew of boiled beans to their milk cows, while still others prepare concentrated beans that have been treated to facilitate processing by drying or roasting the beans, then grinding them. All farmers claim increases in milk production from using the bean. In addition to its virtues as a living plant, dead vegetative matter from the velvet bean protects soil at the beginning of the rainy season and allows agricultural production in plots with steep slopes without causing water erosion.Over time, this debris adds a tremendous amount organic matter to the soil, which improves its structure, permeability, and water-holding capacity.

A field of planted beans.