The idea sparked from a conversation over breakfast in spring 2017 between Cal Zehr, pastor at Willow Springs Mennonite Church, and Dave Bell, a local farmer. They were talking about how to best make use of the land and buildings from the recently-closed Plow Creek Fellowship in Tiskilwa, IL. Before long, they had rallied community support for their proposal for a new farm ministry called Hungry World Farm.
The mission of the farm is to show the interconnectedness between people and creation by educating people on healthy food production and seeking the wellbeing of all. After just its first growing season, the new farm venture has already garnered positive community support.
With an emphasis on education, the farm hosted interactive community days this fall with demonstrations on pressing juice and making applesauce. The staff and volunteers envision farm learning days where groups and members of the community come, share, and learn about a specific aspect of the farm. And a farm learning center is in the development process with displays on specific topics.
The farm’s leadership recognizes the importance of learning and education flowing both into and out of the community. In the midst of the farm’s early development, the steering committee invited Melissa Ndlovu, a participant in MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) from Zimbabwe, to serve at the farm for her 11-month term beginning in August 2018.
Photo provided by Melissa Ndlovu
“Connecting with MCC seemed like a natural point of connection with their work on development and food relief and specifically how the IVEP program can inform and educate ourselves on realities around the world,” said Zehr, who is now Board President for Hungry World Farm.
Ndlovu, who studied nutrition in university in Zimbabwe, works with Lead Produce Farmer Stephan Rauh. He was excited when he discovered Ndlovu was interested in learning more about farming and how it relates to nutrition. Ndlovu is eager to gain knowledge about farming and agriculture to back up her knowledge about nutrition. “I will not just be speaking from something that I hear, I know it and have experienced it,” said Ndlovu.
Anyone with farming knowledge knows the wide breath of duties that need to be completed on a farm. One day Ndlovu might find herself harvesting produce and the next vaccinating goats. “Every day is a surprise,” reflects Ndlovu. “If I have a particularly hard day, I do not hold onto it since I know tomorrow will be different.”
This positive outlook on life makes Melissa a joy to work with according to Rauh and Bell. “It is a fit from the hand of God,” said Zehr. Ndlovu, who has seven and a half months remaining in her IVEP assignment, looks forward to continuing to build her skills and share her knowledge with the staff and volunteers at the farm as they learn from one another.