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How Plant With Purpose Helps Farmers “Produce” through Empowerment


Written by Plant With Purpose on July 9, 2010 in General


By Annie Fikes, PR and Events Intern

I’m not “outdoorsy” by any stretch of the imagination. I love wandering around in forests, playing sports, taking nature walks, and going to the beach, but it would take a superhuman amount of persuading to get me into anywhere near a week-long backpacking trip or a mountain climbing harness. When I left my native San Diego for college in Seattle last September, I entered the land of Birkenstocks, Northface parkas, hiking, snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, and weekend backpacking trips.

At least three of my friends keep full mountain climbing gear in their dorms and scurry off to scale cliffs every chance they get. I, on the other hand, am still physically and emotionally scarred from my first and last attempt at mountain biking.

I never expected to participate in any “Outdoor Adventure” and “Recreation Program” trips until I saw the flyer for a day trip to a local farm. Off I went to work on a biodynamic farm on the first truly gloriously sunny day of spring. It was blissfully un-extreme. I escaped from the city to a gorgeous valley where I got to sit barefoot in the dirt, planting broccoli and kohlrabi and learning about sustainable agriculture from a philosophy professor-turned farmer.

Biodynamic farming is based on the idea that soil and the farm are living organisms. Biodynamic farms attempt to be entirely self-sustainable and individual, striving to break free from the massive, environmentally detrimental farms that dominate American food markets. Biodynamic farms try to preserve soil quality for future generations, provide produce to their local area, make their own fertilizers and composts, and always avoid pesticides.

I left Jubilee Farms covered in dirt and sweat and enlightened by new ideas. I couldn’t help but think about what I learned there when I read about the GMO corn and tomato seeds that an American company, Monsanto, attempted to donate to farmers in Haiti. Monsanto’s seeds were treated with fungicides deemed so dangerous by the EPA that American agricultural workers must wear mandatory protective gear when handling them.

Haitians are extremely angry about the introduction of these foreign and dangerously treated seeds into their market. A group of Haitian farmers, the Peasant Movement of Papay, has been leading demonstrations against Monsanto and burning the donated seeds. Haitians, like biodynamic farmers in America, want to protect the integrity of their local markets, agriculture, small farmers, and environment. One farmer, Jonas Deronzil, said, “People in the U.S. need to help us produce, not give us food and seeds. They’re ruining our chance to support ourselves.”

Plant With Purpose strives to help people “produce” when it empowers local farmers in the countries that it works in to farm their own food in ways that will protect their local environment. When I work with Plant With Purpose I do it from a desk, but I feel like my opportunity to get out into nature at Jubilee Farms gives a little bit of an understanding of what Plant With Purpose is really about and the amazing relationship that people can have with the planet.

To read more about Monsanto seeds in Haiti, check out this article: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/06/haitian-farmers-burn-monsanto-hybrid-seeds/


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