The Power of a Demonstration Field

There were lots of reasons not to plant a field of maize this season. When it was time for preparing the field for planting, we had barely moved our furniture and boxes into the house. We were still finishing up home improvements, and we were very hard-pressed for time. We didn’t have compost ready. A trusted colleague suggested not to rush into planting. And we were not even sure the area we were looking at on the property was going to be the permanent maize demo.

We took all the factors into consideration, but there was never really any question that we were going to get maize going in our first year, despite the less than ideal conditions. After all, what farmer ever has ideal conditions? The key is to do the very best with what we have at hand.

What tipped the scale in favour of getting our first field of maize going right away? It’s the power of having a demo field. I know our results in the first year will likely not be as spectacular as in subsequent years when we have lots of our own compost, and the field is better prepared and more fertile. But I also know that, barring a pest infestation or severe drought, that field is going to speak volumes of the blessing that comes when we farm in harmony with God and his good creation instead of in opposition to God and creation.

And so, we got busy (feel free to browse through the gallery above). We bought the best commercially available compost we could find – very poor compared to what we will make. We used a brush cutter to hack the thick weeds, grasses and brush. We levelled as best we could in the short time we had. We dug planting stations, placed inputs, and waited for the spring rains. And then, we planted.

Planting never gets old for me. It’s an incredible act of faith to spend all that time and effort preparing, and then to put these lifeless kernels in the ground – and then wait.

Dan Wiens
We can’t make a maize seed sprout!

We humans tend to think we’re very clever. To combat out own tendency to hubris, I think it’s a healthy exercise to think about a seed. Although we are now manipulating the genetic code of seeds (and sheep, and bugs, and now humans), God created everything with nothing more than the words, “Let there be.” Plants and trees that bear fruit with seed in it – after their own kind. In a kernel of maize is all the information and instructions to produce a 12-foot maize plant. It’s incredible. And we can’t even make a seed sprout, or a plant grow. All we can ever hope to do is take care of the soil so the soil can provide what a plant needs. Amazing.

We have had a number of people to the Inundo model farm in the last month, and they have all seen the field of fledgling maize and green beans. They’ve been able to see the plants are vigorous and healthy. They’ve also been able to see the order in the field: straight rows, managed population density, etc. What’s fun for me is to see people’s assumptions, based on past experience, get challenged – just by looking at a healthy field that was planted, and is being cared for, entirely by hand. And then the questions come, leading to good learnings and better assumptions.

Mageja (Erlo) and Manqoba (Dan) connect at the Inundo Model Farm.

We are amazed, and humbled, watching the maize grow. It is incredible to see how fast it grows. It seems to me that the imperative, “Let there be” is still very much at work. Life continues to burst forth. And we get to be steward-agents in the ongoing creation!

It’s important to realize that abundance comes not from big tracts of land, but from working and caring for small parcels of land. Our dryland maize and beans demonstration is 1000 m2 – a quarter of an acre. And on that quarter of an acre, we’ve planted 3000 maize plants and 7500 green beans. So how much land does one actually need to experience abundance?

Already the plants are overflowing at the Inundo demonstration.

Inundo means overflow. We planted 3 kg of maize seed. How many kilograms of maize are going to come from our 3 kg of seed – 3000 maize plants? I guess we’ll all find out at harvest time! But I’m anticipating it will be “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”

Published by


Flourishing Land, Flourishing People, Flourishing Communities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s