Where are my overalls?

Written by Whitney Smith

Ok, so I suppose I don’t really need my overalls, but I have been doing a lot of farming lately, and overalls and farming just seem to go together for this Alabama girl.

Back in January, my teammate Adhanom and I got to work planting a garden. He had heard about a technique called Farming God’s Way (FGW), and had been sharing the concepts with me, so we decided to give it a try. It is an approach to farming similar to no-till farming, but it is based on Biblical principles of stewardship. We are to make the most of what we’ve been given and waste as little as possible.

Here we are post-planting in our peanut plot – not a very large area,
but enough for a demonstration garden.

You only dig where the seeds will be sown, so you don’t have to turn an entire field. This helps reduce soil erosion. Also, you mulch very heavily, which can help reduce soil exposure to sun, maintain moisture in the soil, and reduce the amount of weeds. So, there is less work, the plants give a higher yield and it requires less water.

Soaking the GroundBut even with all these benefits, we didn’t exactly pick the easiest time of year to plant a garden in South Sudan. January was right in the middle of the DRY SEASON! The ground was so hard we just had to start by digging small holes and filling them with water to soften up the ground to be leveled. It was definitely hard and hot work in the midday sun.

But this garden has a special purpose, so we had to get it planted within the few available days we had. We hope during our TOT 4 with our CHE trainers, which is taking place March 11 – 15, to use this garden for teaching the Farming God’s Way techniques. That way, after the training, the trainers will have time to prepare their gardens before the rains come in April. This garden will be a demonstration garden, showing the difference between FGW and the conventional methods of farming in the area.

Leveling the Ground
Leveling the ground (ok, so you’re probably thinking, this doesn’t look like no-till farming, but after the first year when you establish the slope of the ground,
you don’t turn up all of the soil as I’m doing here).

After the ground was leveled, and we measured out the plots, we dug the holes/furrows, and put some manure, which we got for free from a local cattle camp down the road!

Digging the Furrows
Adhanom digging the furrows for peanuts
Spreading the Manure
Here we laid out manure in our sorghum plot

We planted the seeds and laid the mulch. We have in our garden now sorghum (the staple grain around here), corn, peanuts, green peas, tomatoes, collards, onions, and chili peppers! Oh and watermelons! Mmm, I can’t wait for those watermelons.

Gathering Mulch
Before we started any digging, we gathered lots of mulch to cover our Farming God’s Way plots. It’s amazing the difference it makes!

Now, just over a month later, our plants are doing well…mostly. Many of our corn seeds did not sprout. Perhaps they had been too exposed to the sun prior to planting. Our FGW plots started out a little slow compared to the conventional ones because of the mulching, but now I’m slowly starting to see a difference between the two, which is exciting.

Ground Nuts - 3 Weeks Later
Here, three weeks after planting, I’m standing in our Farming God’s Way peanut plot (don’t mind the weeds), while Andrea, my colleague and one of our CHE trainers, is standing in our conventional peanut plot. He helped us know the way people plant locally.

March is looking very busy. Would you be praying for all the ministry endeavors happening?

Upcoming Schedule:

  • March 6-8 Simply The Story Training in Tonj with pastors and church leaders from the surrounding areas. Pray that this method will be clearly communicated and can become a powerful way to share the word of God.
  • March 11-15 CHE TOT 4 this is the fourth and final training for our Training Teams from Tonj and Akot areas. Their communities now have committees and are moving forward in their committee training. Pray that this training will meet the needs of the trainers as they move forward with their CHE programs, giving them more technical information and resources.
  • Mondays and Thursdays I lead CHE lessons with the Community Health Workers in the IDAT clinic. The clinic has made some recent shifts and the focus now is primarily pregnant and nursing mothers and children 5 years of age and under. The Community Health Workers go on home visitation in the community with Kenyan Midwives/Nurses Annie and Sham, and share what they are learning with people in the community. Pray for the staff as they make their visits in the afternoon, which is the hottest part of the day. Pray also for the families they visit to be transformed through the holistic teaching they are receiving.
  • We hope to begin CHE TOT1with a new group of CHE trainers in May in the Tonj area. Pray for God’s guidance as we seek to make awareness/preparations and trainer selections
    April 5th Fly back to Kenya for Field meetings and retreat!