By Rylie Shore
Who doesn’t love a great discount? Those red stickers that say “Buy One Get One Free!” or “50% Off” make me twice as excited to go shopping. Being the bargain hunter that I am, I constantly look for the best ways to save money and find deals. Though this can be great for my own wallet, I recently learned that purchasing cheap items is not always so great for the people that help harvest or make the products, and it oftentimes damages the environment.
Companies know that people like me love a good bargain, and they will do anything to keep prices down and business up. Unfortunately, in many cases employers will pay their workers unlivable wages and use environmentally damaging methods to make their products cheaper for consumers. We unknowingly enable these companies to continue unjust practices by purchasing their cheap products. Of course, not every bargain item is a result of social injustices, so how do we know which products are a great buy and which are exploiting workers?
Thankfully, there are resources out there to help us minimize exploitation and improve sustainability by making smarter shopping decisions. “Good Guide” and “Better World Shopper” are two apps that can be downloaded to your cell phone, making them easily accessible while out at the grocery store. “Better World Shopper” is an app that rates each brand or company with an A-F, letting you know whether the company is a responsible option for consumers. “Good Guide” rates each company on three separate categories: health, environment, and society. It gives a separate rating for each of these and then provides an overall score for the product and company. Both applications are user friendly and provide us with an easy, manageable way to start making smarter shopping choices.
For those without smart phones or those with a Pinterest addiction, we have started our own “Environmentally Friendly Companies” board on the Plant With Purpose Pinterest page. Additionally, Good Guide has a website that provides the same services as the app, as well as offering additional information. With these basic resources, we as consumers can make a substantial impact for workers all across our planet, while conserving the environment.
Start shopping smarter, not harder, and help secure fair wages for some of our international partners and other workers around the globe who are working hard to feed their families!
Recent reports of global injustices have left us heavy hearted. This morning in honor of World Humanitarian Day, Plant With Purpose’s San Diego staff took some time to pray for the events wracking our world. In the face of such humanitarian crises, we accept that we can’t fix the broken nature of things. But we have hope knowing that we serve and communicate with the God who can. Pray with us.
We join together in praise today – that you are a God of justice and compassion. We are grateful that you know our stories intimately and that you also know the limitations of our humanity. Give us the eyes to see one another more clearly and help us enter into one another’s stories.
Thank you for those on the front lines – from development professionals to community leaders – who are working to eliminate oppression, right systemic injustices, and restore broken relationships. We pray that you would empower and protect them, as they remain steadfastly committed to see wrongs righted.
We pray for your intervention – that barriers that divide crumble, prejudices disappear, and hatreds cease. Holy Spirit, move in our hearts – that we would act when faced by the needs of others. Move in our hearts – that we would turn to you, not only in times of conflict and injustice but in all situations, as we seek to be reflections of your Son.
We pray for compassion to seize our hearts and wisdom our minds, to act effectively and humbly in all we do. We pray for all of humanity – that we would respect each other’s differences, lay aside our predispositions, and be united in Love.
Draw us into one another’s stories. Bolster us with hope and equip us for action.
This blog series explores the six Core Values of Plant With Purpose: Faith, Collaboration, Stewardship, Sustainability, Empowerment, and Innovation. In this series we’ll share how these values play out across our international programs and how they inform our approach to community development. Up next: stewardship.
Stew-ard-ship / noun: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care
What do you steward? This term may seem irrelevant outside an environmental context, but the truth is we all steward something. Each of us has been entrusted with resources and relationships. We steward homes, finances, children, food, clients, friendships – and the list goes on.
Plant With Purpose’s San Diego office stewards the organization’s finances, donor relations, storytelling efforts, and program oversight. Our international country directors steward their staff, who in turn steward partnering families. These farming families steward their land and resources, however limited these resources may be.
In an effort to incorporate stewardship across our international programs, Plant With Purpose works with partnering farmers to make the most of their resources. When families carefully and responsibly manage even small plots of land, great things can happen!
One of the best examples of stewardship is the double dug garden. This farming technique helps families maximize small areas by digging a garden bed into the ground then filling it with layers of dirt and organic fertilizer until it sits several feet above ground. The mounded earth provides more surface area for growing nutrient-rich veggies like kale, beans, corn, bananas, and carrots. Farmer Field Schools in Tanzania have reported a 64% increase in crop production when using the double dug technique.
Zubeda Ramadani is a farmer from Tanzania who learned how to craft double dug gardens through her Plant With Purpose savings group. Since switching from normal gardens to double dugs, Zubeda is growing an abundant harvest and using less water to care for the garden. The increased vegetable production means her family has more diversity in their diet, and all five children are growing up healthier. Zubeda sells leftover vegetables at the market and invests the income as shares in her savings group.
Across the globe, partnering farmers are wisely caring for their resources. This stewardship of earth and money teaches us that we serve a God who cares for each sparrow and provides our daily bread. By stewarding what they’ve been given, Plant With Purpose farmers have a plenitude of food and enough income to save for tomorrow
 Matthew 10:29-31
By Rylie Shore
Have you ever suffered through a few months or even a few years when everything seems to be going wrong and nothing seems to be stable? How amazing does it feel coming out on the other side and finally finding a solid foundation? Whether it be getting a position after months of job searching, restoring a relationship after years of heartache, or even taking a weekend away to clear your head and relax on the beach, living life with a clear purpose and a sure foundation brings much joy and is something to be celebrated.
As Plant With Purpose reaches 30 years, we want to celebrate both our anniversary and the lives that have been rooted with a solid foundation and restored hope. Through programs that train and empower, our global farmers have been freed from the bondages of poverty and rooted in the Lord, rooted with economic stability, and have rooted trees and crops to continue restoring the environment and providing for their families. In this three part series, we will be sharing how our three-pronged method of spiritual, economic, and environmental transformation has impacted the lives of our international friends
“When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” – Aldo Leopold
If you have ever watched a commercial development go up in your hometown, you may know from experience the mixed feelings that accompany seeing new buildings spring up down the block. I grew up in the same town my entire life, and remember being a ten year old child watching my favorite hills being leveled and the trees I loved to climb being chopped down to make way for someone else’s favorite store. Though some elation may come realizing that a trip to the grocery store is five minutes shorter, there is also loss at the once natural earth now suffocated by concrete. However, because many of us don’t directly depend on the land for our livelihood, it is easy to disregard the ever-shrinking expanses of untouched land and the environmental problems caused by our lifestyle choices. In countries around the world, our international partners are striving to preserve and restore the land, and as they do, their lives are also being rooted and restored.
Through Plant With Purpose programs, Venise Maxila in Haiti has learned how rooted trees mean a rooted life. As she has started to work her land, environmental stewardship has become one of her great passions. “With the training I get from Plant With Purpose, I understand many things and this helps me to start to change from what I was,” says Venise.
“I understand it is we who are responsible for God’s creation. It is a marriage between the environment and economic activities; if one doesn’t work well the other doesn’t exist. It is this that makes me say with the plantation I have I can create a small change in my economic situation.”
As Venise has sought to care for the environment, the environment has also given back to her. Though previously she experienced economic instability, as she has learned to plant, tend, and graft trees. She has been able to start her own small business and watch as both her income and land continue to grow. Just imagine her relief and excitement. She went from being unsure of how to make ends meet to being confident that she can provide for herself, restore the environment, and encounter God in both.
It is stories like Venise Maxila’s that inspire me to be more mindful of the ways my own lifestyle is impacting the environment. As she and other family farmers are finding restoration through tending their land, I am reminded that God offers us so much hope in the things He created. By using the gifts from the earth that the Lord has given all of us, our international friends are again being rooted in both faith and purpose.
To help families stay rooted in their environment, donate to our thirtieth anniversary campaign and give to grow thirty family farms. Visit http://ift.tt/sVujBv for the details and to support others like the Maxilas.
What comes to mind when you think about farms? Images of tractors, flat cropland, fields of wheat, chickens, barns, and a farmer in overalls are typical pictures that characterize the American farm.
Farms in developing countries mean every square inch of property owned by a family, which holds value in cultivating sustenance from the ground. It is the lives of these “farmers” that Plant With Purpose has seen transformed over our 30 years as an organization. These next few months we will be sharing stories of family farmers who have been impacted by Plant With Purpose.
Today we continue the story of Alejandro in the Dominican Republic and share about the growth he is experiencing in his relationship with God as well as the growth on his farm. If you missed reading about the financial freedom that Alejandro is experiencing, start by reading Savings Groups: Lending a Hand to Change.
By Brittany Raab
Plant With Purpose’s focus on spiritual renewal with trainings for leaders in Church, Community, and Change curriculum has encouraged the hearts of pastors and community leaders in Loma Verde. The centrality of the Gospel within Plant With Purpose’s program filters into all aspects of the program. Each savings group begins with prayer and a message from the Word of God. Additional spiritual support extends in giving Bibles and other resources needed for local Bible study groups to meet.
Alejandro agrees that, “This has helped to spiritually strengthen the members of the group.” In elaboration he shares, “Through Plant With Purpose, I have further strengthened my devotion to God because in the savings group we read the Bible, pray and there is a reflection of the message. This has impacted my spiritual life. As well, the community is now more unified.”
Plant With Purpose also invests efforts to change the way family farmers like Alejandro see their surroundings. Alejandro shares that, “Plant With Purpose has taught us to protect the environment through workshops on soil conservation, processing of organic fertilizers, environmental benefits of trees for the protection of our farms.” This education shaped him and his neighbors in Loma Verde. He continues, “After receiving the trainings, we have seen the improvement of the soil. Now we care more for the trees and the water and we are more aware to caring for the environment.” Not only are the trees having a positive impact on the environment but they are also helping Alejandro economically, “I thank God because the trees planted are producing and are generating revenue that is improving my life today.”
For Alejandro, Plant With Purpose has been the helping hand he needed to change his family’s reality. From trainings on sustainable farming, to his community-based saving group, Alejandro has watched his “wish list” for his family and his future shrink before his eyes and wishes become reality. He is more confident and in control of his finances. With the tips and techniques he has learned, Alejandro is preparing for a successful future for his family, business, farm, and home.
We are grateful to our Plant With Purpose supporters who have made this uplifting outcome possible. If you are interested in donating to improve the lives of more people like Alejandro, please following this link and Give to Grow.
By Brittany Raab
Changes. Improvements. Advancements. We all have facets of our life that we wish would transform into something better. Yet, in order for a true change to occur, we sometimes need help from others. For over thirty years, Plant With Purpose has used the talent and knowledge of national staff to be the “help” that people are looking for. While the “wish list” of life changes may look different for a Dominican Republic farmer, his outcome yields the same results we all desire – the ability to live a better life.
Alejandro Castillo Jimenez is a forty-year-old father and husband, with great responsibilities in Loma Verde. He is involved in neighborhood groups, local government, teacher association, and his neighborhood church. Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility! As if this wasn’t enough, Alejandro also has a leadership role as the counter in his communities’ Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). He cherishes this responsibility so much that he refers to it as his “vocation.” Simply put, the community-based saving group has changed his life.
“The benefits are investing in my family, and improving my quality of life in regard to food, shelter, and education for my children.”
Alejandro explains the impact the savings group has had on his life. He states, “Economically, the implementation of the savings groups has been a blessing because we have learned to save and we get our loans for a more affordable rate in comparison to the lenders.” To further understand the benefits, Alejandro adds, “The beneficiaries of the payment of interest are us – the community. With loans taken in the group, I’m building my home, I have also invested in my business of pottery and selling fish.”
Alejandro says his life has improved by 70 percent because Plant With Purpose has taught him how to better manage his income. “I no longer spend it on unnecessary things but I invest in practical savings,” Alejandro explains. Alejandro feels that ultimately, “The benefits are investing in my family, and improving my quality of life in regard to food, shelter, and education for my children.”
Alejandro adds, “Personally I have been able to improve the roof of my house and get out of debt. … I thank God for everything that has given me.”
And we join with him in praising God for the money management and income generating skills that Alejandro has learned from Plant With Purpose. Tomorrow we will be sharing how improved agriculture and spiritual renewal is further transforming Alejandro and his family’s life.
As summer vacations are in full swing, friends and family are getting out to explore new and exotic places. People are taking advantage of the warm weather and long days by hiking the John Muir Trail, trekking through the English countryside, and camping out under stars. One aspect of travel is learning about local culture—people’s traditions, practices, diets, and language. Today, we’ve asked long-time Plant With Purpose friend Colin Richard to share about food systems in Hawaii.
Hello to all of you Plant With Purpose blog readers! I write to you from Hilo, Hawai’i, the island in the Hawai’ian chain known as the The Big Island or the Island of Hawai’i. I’m excited to be here and have the opportunity to experience tropical agriculture in a context that has some similarities with Plant With Purpose’s international programs.
Plant With Purpose has increasingly moved towards engaging communities as they fall along a watershed basin. In places where modern infrastructure such as water, power, and other utilities do not exist, this approach is proving effective. From another perspective, some of us in developed nations are rethinking the way we have been meeting food, water, energy, and other needs and are seeking ways to learn from the wisdom and traditions of both historic and modern indigenous people.
Over the years, I’ve been given the opportunity to teach, speak publicly, and consult on the aspects of agroforestry, appropriate technology, and other topics that are often grouped together under the banner of permaculture—a comprehensive sustainable design system. It was at a permaculture course several years ago when one of the teachers, Jeff Adams, introduced me to a watershed-based land management system from Hawai’i called “ahupua’a”. The ahupua’a system was highly efficient and provided a truly sustainable way of life for the physical needs of the Hawai’ian islanders to be met:
The concept of private property was unknown to ancient Hawaiians, but they did follow a complex system of land division … Shaped by island geography, each ahupua`a was a wedge-shaped area of land running from the uplands to the sea, following the natural boundaries of the watershed. Each ahupua`a contained the resources the human community needed, from fish and salt, to fertile land for farming taro or sweet potato, to koa and other trees growing in upslope areas. Villagers from the coast traded fish for other foods or for wood to build canoes and houses. Specialized knowledge and resources peculiar to a small area were also shared among ahupua`a.
Just like the ancient Hawaiians, all of us live in a watershed; however, how we treat our watershed probably differs. It is up to us to learn from these cultures and how they interacted with the life-giving source of water, food, and transportation. Whether we are in an urban or rural area, in a developed or developing country, we can gain understanding of the environmental, economic and spiritual systems that comprise the world around us. May we posture ourselves to learn from these cultures and integrate their examples in our own context.
The first documented visit to the Kingdom of Hawai’i by Europeans in 1778 shares that there were over 100,000 more people living on the Big Island then than there are today. They had a completely self-sufficient way of life which, despite the best efforts of many residents and visitors, contrasts starkly with today’s lifestyles. It could be that we have much to learn, not only from the ancient Hawai’ians lifestyle, but also from the contemporary Hawai’ian cultural revitalization that began in earnest in the 1970s.
Whether you still have vacation plans this summer or are interested in learning about local indigenous cultures, I’d encourage you to approach the matter with an open mind to learn. It is a great honor to visit the people of Hawai’i and their land and sea. Plant With Purpose has influenced the way I approach interacting with local cultures. Their focus on local knowledge and empowerment as contrasted with “one size fits all” development solutions has been inspirational to me over the years. It is reasons such as this that makes me proud to be part of their journey.
To learn more about watershed stewardship in the San Diego area, visit the San Diego Canyonland’s website.
To learn more about sustainable food systems in the San Diego area, visit the Wild Willow Farm and Education Center’s website.
This summer our San Diego staff has been reflecting on the Psalms during our weekly devotions. Psalm 33 encourages us to sing praise to the Lord—the Creator of the starry heavens, earth, and seas—whose purposes stand throughout time. It speaks of His care for creation and His care for those who put their hope in Him. Verse five says:
The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
On the first Friday of the month, Plant With Purpose’s international body lifts up prayers and praises from across our programs. Please join us in bringing these praises and requests before the Lord as we seek His heart for righteousness and justice in the world.
We praise God for:
- The return of Bertrand, our administrator, from his master’s program at Hebrew University in Israel.
- The safe arrival of a new baby to Daphrose, our bookkeeper.
- The safety of Benoit’s (board member) family after a car accident.
We pray for:
- The willingness of people to open their homes and share information about their families as we conduct monitoring and evaluation surveys.
- Seedling growth in our tree nurseries so they will be ready to plant during the fall rainy season. Pray for specifically for the indigenous trees, which farmers plan to plant in the Nakayazu Watershed to provide alternative food sources for baboons who otherwise take food from their farms.
- The upcoming Theology of Work seminars. Pray that people’s hearts and minds will be open as we continue engaging local leaders to dream of a sustainable future where everyone has enough.
- Continuing talks with potential partners including Action Aid, World Vision, ASARECA, ICCO, and IFDC.
We praise God for:
- The communities in Hondo Valle who are planting their coffee plots with new disease-resistant varieties.
We pray for:
- The border communities of Descubierta and Hondo Valle as they continue their efforts to replant coffee plots that were affected by the coffee rust disease.
- Pastors and leaders as they put on Vacation Bible Schools for the children in their communities. Pray for enthusiasm as they share the values of the Kingdom.
- Wisdom for Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) leaders to efficiently manage their savings groups. Pray for good ideas as they engage in the development of their communities.
- Members of savings groups to be proactive in creating new income-generating businesses that will increase their financial stability.
We praise God for:
- Improvement in the health of Catule, one of our community promoters.
We pray for:
- The rainy season to come soon. Farmers are waiting for the summer rains to water their nurseries and crops.
- Success with the pilot VSLA group in Fonds-Verrettes.
- Wisdom for new staff members in their areas of expertise within the program.
We praise God for:
- His care and provision for the staff of Plant With Purpose.
- Rain that has fallen in the Mixteca region and has watered crops.
- Workshops on comprehensive health that have been a blessing to the participants.
- His blessings and safety during the visit of Solana Beach Presbyterian Church to partnering communities.
We pray for:
- Physical and spiritual strength for our community promoters.
- The work in Altos de Chiapas. May God continue to bless families in this region as we establish a full program.
We praise God for:
- A good end to the 2014 fiscal year.
We pray for:
- Constitution reform in Tanzania. Please pray for peace during this process.
- Continued wisdom and knowledge for both Plant With Purpose staff and farmers at the start of the new financial year.
- Further market demand and opportunities for farmers to sell their organic produce.
- The success of an upcoming event where we will present an organic label and certificate program to our farmers.
We praise God for:
- The opportunity to share about the Creation Care movement in Thailand and other parts of Asia. Please pray for wisdom as Plant With Purpose joins Lausanne Creation Care Network to promote the concept through publications.
We pray for:
- The implementation of Impact Evaluation monitoring and evaluation surveys, which are currently being conducted.
- The submission of a proposal to the current government on improving the process for legal status and citizenship.
- A new bookkeeper to join our staff.
- The many conversations taking place in regards to collaboration, training, partnerships, and outreach in the Chiang Rai and beyond.
- The preparation of a 7-year strategic plan (2015-2022) to serve marginalized people.
We praise God for:
- The arrival of our director of field operations John Mitchell’s family to San Diego. Please continue praying for the finalization of his wife’s visa.
- A meaningful time in Mexico for the group from Solana Beach Presbyterian Church.
- Our summer interns who will be completing their internships with us this month. Praise God for the time and effort they have dedicated to the work of Plant With Purpose.
- A fabulous time with supporters during our Open House. Praise God for His blessings on our organization and for friends who believe in this work.
We pray for:
- Technical Director Robert Morikawa is continuing the triennial program evaluation in Burundi and Tanzania. Please pray for the processes.Corbyn Small is traveling to Oaxaca in August with Vision Trip group. Pray for a safe and encouraging time together.
- Africa Program Officer Christi Huizenga’s time with the staff in Burundi. Pray for wisdom as conversations continue on expanding the program into the Democratic Republic of Congo and the details involved in hiring a new country director.
- Preparations for our 2014 Planting Hope Gala that is taking place on October 11. Pray for attendance and that the details for the evening will come together.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support! We are deeply grateful for your partnership.
Among their many virtues, trees teach us something about boundaries. Trees remain where they are rooted. They take in the closest nutrients available. In The Wisdom of Stability, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove explains,
“Look at a tree on the landscape out your window and you will notice that it is shaped something like a geyser, reaching up in the single column of a trunk to spray out in limbs, most of them bending back toward the ground. Follow the downward slope of those bending branches as if they were the fluid spray of the geyser, and you can sketch out a circumference on the ground around the trunk of any tree. That circle is called the “drip line.”
The drip line indicates exactly how far the tree’s roots extend under the dirt. This circumference of earth is all the tree has been given. It needs no more and no less. Sometimes I wish we were more like trees. But don’t we want what is outside of our boundary lines? Aren’t we constantly looking over our shoulders or up ahead to see if we’re missing out on better options?
During a recent Friday devotional, our San Diego staff reflected on Psalm 16. Verses 5 and 6 read,
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance (ESV).
This Psalm promises a beautiful inheritance within our boundary lines. The boundaries God gives us can seem restrictive, but there is freedom in this constraint. We cannot do everything, so we do what we can. We can’t have everything, so we say thank you for what we have and steward it well.
This lesson of drip lines is evident in the lives of Plant With Purpose partnering farmers as they plant trees and restore the soil of their small farms, doing what they can with what they’ve been given. Shalou, a young father from Haiti, partnered with Plant With Purpose just this year. After witnessing the changes that sustainable farming made he said, “I did not expect that I could transform this farm, but when God is with you He can surely perform miracles.”
Reforesting small, degraded plots of land is a radical act of stewardship. The farmers we partner with are learning to live and even thrive within their drip lines. And as they do they are discovering a beautiful inheritance.
How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every shining flower!
God in His infinite creativity made flowers unique for our enjoyment but also to attract the perfect pollinator. A flower’s specific colors, distinct scent, and even the time of day or night its petals open directly relates to which animal or insect will spread the powdery substance from bud to bud so those flowers can bring forth fruit.
There is a reason we call productive people “worker bees”: these busybodies keep the world fed! The tiny producers of one of our favorite sweet treats are also credited for the maturation of fresh fruits and veggies. Berries, stone fruits, melons, avocados, carrots, and many more are dependent on bees. In fact, thirty percent of crops need bees for pollination.
Over the years, 186 partnering farmers in Haiti have received training in beekeeping. Beekeeping workshops have also been conducted in the Dominican Republic and Tanzania. The know-how of raising bees adds value to family farms as the bees pollinate local crops and produce honey—both income-generating products. Plant With Purpose also promotes planting native species that support the health of bee colonies.
This summer, be kind to the bees. Plant a bee-friendly garden; they typically like native, flowering plants. Take a beekeeping workshop at a neighborhood farm. Support local beekeepers by purchasing homegrown honey. And help us integrate bees into the family farms sprouting up in rural communities around the world.
Photos by the talented Studio Castillero.