We have the incredible joy and delight of now being able to look back at the first few months on the Inundo property on Cadmoor Road in Outer West Durban. We had in faith planned, in our original moving timeline, to be moved and settled in time to plant our first field crop. It feels significant to come to the end of our first summer growing season. There have been so many highlights. In our permanent field crop area we planted two thirds of the field with maize (white corn) and one third with green beans. Those field portions will rotate every year.
You can imagine our excitement to harvest an incredible 120 kg of fresh, healthy, green beans. During most of January and the first part of February we were picking beans and having a hard time with keeping up with the new ones coming. It was an incredible showcase for our new interns and staff to be able to see such abundance coming from the field. Each day that our staff worked we would send them home with 500g of beans each and they could share them with their families. On top of that we were able to sell most of our harvest to a local veggie shop. The owner of the shop commented on the high the quality of the beans. Considering this was our establishment year, we were very pleased with the results of the beans.
In the same way, it was pure joy to watch our maize grow into 3m plants from small white kernels planted in November. We took in every stage of the growth of these majestic plants with great interest. A maize shoot is so strong that it can push its way through an organic mulch cover many times its size. When we consider superheros, we will always be reminded of a mighty maize shoot.
In the same way, the miraculous appearance of the tassels on the top of the maize plant was met with a warm greeting by bees and other pollinators. What an experience to walk through the field and hear bees working with such fervour. While we have learned that the bees don’t contribute to the pollination of the maize plants, they do benefit greatly by such a wonderful supply of pollen for their hives. The Inundo maize was instead pollinated by the wind and we got to experience seeing the delicate silks appearing on the first maize cobs. The silks on each infant cob waited for pollen to be caught and drawn down into the cob to form a kernel. Every silk then formed a kernel as the pollination process of the maize was successful. The pollination was incredibly successful throughout the whole field, indicating that moisture levels were optimum through the process. We began to see big juicy cobs of green maize, filled out fully, and they were delicious on the braai (BBQ).
The maize did face some significant challenges this year. We battled an infestation of fall army worm which threatened to wipe out the whole crop. Plus thieves, in the form of a troop of vervet monkeys, came in on a daily basis and created a lot of carnage. They were brazen intruders, picking a cob, hopping the fence, and eating it in the driveway! Still, we managed to sell dozens of cobs to the local veggie shop and keep a good portion for dry maize and seed for next year. Plus the educational value of the learning that happened in that field all season was significant.
Our Next Steps to Set Up the Vegetable Demo
As we head into the dry winter months now, the maize dies back and a conditioning cover crop nurtures the soil in the crop area. Our next steps are to prepare and set up the portion of the field that will become the vegetable demonstration garden. Watering becomes even more critical in the winter when rain is scarce. The strategy that we have identified that will address the critical winter shortage of water is to install a drip irrigation system for the vegetable demonstration garden, gravity-fed by a bank of water tanks we’ve had installed in close proximity to that garden. Many of the rural homes that we support face water access issues in the winter. Our rainwater harvesting strategy is intended to demonstrate what can be done without needing to be reliant on a municipal water source.
We have two sets of tanks: tanks close to the house, and tanks close to the vegetable garden.The vegetable garden tanks are fed from the tanks up by the house – either when the house tanks overflow, or via a valve we can open to ‘dump’ water from the house tanks to the irrigation tanks. The tanks installed around the house have been collecting rainwater all summer long. We have been using that water for all our household needs but are able to switch back to municipal water if we need all our rainwater to be used for irrigation. It will be fantastic to be able to utilize, in a direct way, what God provides out of the sky!
Of course, tanks and drip irrigation are a strategic cost for any farmer. For us, the system is important in order for to minimize evaporative loss, as well as to save time spent watering. Time saving for us means that more time can be applied to teaching and mentoring. When installed we’ll be able to open a valve to the drip lines and go do something else while the plants get water. Plus the learning value for our students is great. They are able to see that water used for growing vegetables is coming directly from the sky and God’s provision. While in the beginning an under-resourced farmer may not be able to afford a rain tank himself, he can save income from future growing seasons and work towards a sustainable water solution for his property. Our aim is show what is possible and then help people to get there.
Dreams of a Training Venue
We are also thinking through the necessary requirements for a building we hope to erect within the next year and a half that will house a training room and necessary supports — small kitchen, bathrooms, storage and an office. If you would like to help us on the financial side for the training room and other improvements, you can do so through the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada Inundo Project Fund.
It’s been an extremely busy season for us, but very rewarding as well. Word is getting around about the model farm, and we have hosted a steady stream of visitors coming to check out what we’re doing, and why. The internship program has been going well, and in a sense everything we do is to train and disciple people like them!
The interest from many abroad – many of you reading this now – has also been encouraging. We love to tell the stories of what God is doing, and there’s already been talk from Canadian churches about sending teams to the Inundo model farm to learn, pray, and serve. We look forward to all that God has in store for us at the Inundo Model Farm!