Tuesday, May 27, 2014

No Idea What To Do

She was the size of a small refrigerator, with eyes so liquid and brown that you felt yourself melting right into them. Her hide was the color of warm Carmel, and it stretched over her hips so tightly that when you ran your hand over them you could feel the nuances of the bones. The rainy night she joined our family was one of complete chaos...construction on our barn wasn't finished yet so she had to reside in the garage. As we led her into her new temporary home, she lost her footing on the wet concrete floor, and each leg went a different direction as her very full udder lay under her. Caroline the cow was now in the ownership of a family who had no clue what to do with her.
Caroline with cousin Colleen

When I tell people that we grew up on five acres in central Kentucky, they assume I know about farming, that by default, our DNA has "farmer genes".  Vice President Mike and I know enough to plant a seed and water it, but we never quite got the cow thing down. Caroline eventually came down with mastitis and we sold her to a farmer with a herd and a head full of knowledge on animal husbandry.

Our flustered attempts to meet Caroline's needs taught us many life lessons, but despite this I still went into our relationships with our FFF mom's thinking that each of them must know how to garden. Indigenous women in Guatemala have lived their lives surrounded by verdant hills, with moisture providing rains and volcanic soil capable of feeding those that nurture it. Finding Freedom has purchased land for many of our abandoned mothers in our program and we are currently building our sixteenth house. Why then are these women still dependent on our food donations? Why aren't they milking their own cows or raising luscious gardens on the land we purchased for them? Why don't they just know how to raise their own food?

The answer is as different as each of the women we ask it of. Lucia owns the land we purchased for her, but it sits on a cliff so high that we had to create a guardrail at the edge of her porch so her children didn't fall off the edge. Candalaria has the land we deeded to her, but no hoe, rake, seeds or terracing to keep the soil from washing down her steep hill during the rainy season. Lucy's land sits at the bottom of a shallow, where all of the rain from the frequent showers puddles, keeping the soil too wet to grow food.  Catarina's (R) lungs are so damaged from Tuberculosis and asthma that  even walking is difficult for her. 
We have had some success. Ana's FFF donated chickens died but the land we purchased for her has trees that produce a native fruit that she sells when in season. Maria's land, where our newest home with running water is being built, is flat, large enough to garden, and Maria knows how to tend to growing vegetables. She will need tools, fertilizer and seeds, but she has the knowledge. 

Maria on her new FFF donated land. 

Oxfam (Oxfam), an international relief organization dedicated to eradication of hunger and poverty. They describe food insecurity this way:

 Our Finding Freedom sponsored families fit the above criteria. Finding Freedom only provides one meal a day for our sponsored families. Two thousand calories a day per person is not something they can conceptualize, or that we could afford. We have to move toward self-sustainability for our families.
We are growing as an organization, and growing pains mean that we stretch our knowledge base to meet the needs of our sponsored families. As of last week we are actively seeking other organizations and individuals to teach our FFF mothers gardening techniques. We don't know yet what this new "picture" looks like for our program, but it will certainly have a better outcome than our family had with poor Caroline the cow.