We began growing food on our El Salvador campus in 2015. Since that time, our cooperative, Antonio, has taken on wonderful ownership of the project, and works with our interns to expand and fine tune our ecology efforts. As a result, we’ve been producing food from five deep garden beds wonderfully for the last two years. Neighbors have marveled at our watermelons, which they didn’t even know could be grown in that area, along with a variety of other fruits and vegetables that have been producing wonderfully.
Due to this success, we then expanded to 15 beds. We began digging, amending and supplying water and moved forward with our same methods on more beds. Sadly though, the first five beds we had started with stopped growing well. Tomatoes started to fall from the plant, radishes died, the cucumbers looked like they could be next.
There was plenty of water (it’s rainy season), and no sign of disease. If you’ve worked to grow food, you probably know that some seasons just go better than others, and you can't always tell why. But this wasn’t what looked like the end of a bad season. Too many things were slowly dying away.
In the decline, there was a choice in how to respond: either get really discouraged, blame someone or something, or give up on what we thought was a really good effort.
But none of these things happened. I was so encouraged as I watched the fruit appear. It's not just food we're growing, we are developing people and THIS is God's work, and something special has happened on this land, in people like my friend Antonio.
We gathered around and began brainstorming, talking about the possible causes from disease to soil composition, and then started to pose solutions. By "we," I don't mean the Americans. I mean we--our team, made up of Americans and
Salvadorans, who were both bringing
ideas to the table.
Before long our project had shifted. Instead of fifteen active beds there were 7 for growing food, and 8 for different soil building experiments to help us better prepare for what had happened. Based on the solutions applied, we will work to bring life back to the soil that has lost its nutrients over the years.
Perhaps this seems like a small thing--a brainstorming session. But it’s not. If you looked closely, you’d see that there was partnership between Americans and Salvadorans where every voice was heard, and ideas were generated from both sides. Our Salvadoran brothers were not discouraged by the soil depletion, or ready to end the experiment. Instead, it was a new beginning: the challenge to change the environment to bring about more food was now more pronounced, and we were ready to deal with it. Problem solving wasn’t daunting, it was possible, and we were doing it together. Antonio had found a voice--not as a beneficiary to our organization, but as a participant in it!
With cooperation like this, that happened as a result of an investment made into Antonio's person through a biblical education, we can solve soil issues, no problem. We're growing so much more than produce, and I'm happy to play a part.
Written by Jeremiah Watson