August Farm Field Day

From MFK Agriculture Research and Extension Program Specialist Ben Wiseman

August’s Farmer Field Day included the hallmarks of a great field trip: hands-on learning, a packed lunch, and a broken down bus.

Farmer Field Day is the capstone to MFK’s six-month farmer training program.  The event takes the cohort of farmers on a tour of agricultural entities in the North.  On the tour, we take the farmers to farms that are using methods taught in our farming training program. For example, soil cover, irrigation, mechanization, and composting are demonstrated at farms using those practices effectively. At the end of the tour, the farmers return to their homes with tangible examples of how their practices could be supplemented with improved methods.

Some of the improved technologies displayed on the trip are more accessible to farmers, such as mulching to conserve water and soil.  The farmers, however, face an array of barriers to implementing many of the improved methods.

One of the barriers keeping farmers from adopting new techniques is transportation between the city- where agricultural inputs and technologies are sold- to their farms in the rural areas of North-East Haiti.  The farmers in the cohort live isolated by unimproved roads and footpaths.  The labor and cost of transportation into town limits their access to agricultural goods.  It also limits their ability to exchange knowledge with farmers in different areas.  One of the motivations for MFK’s Farmer Field Day addresses this isolation; we hope that by hosting a tour showcasing diverse agricultural practices, the farmers can create an idea for improving their own farms.

MFK does this within the context of the transportation infrastructure available in the region, and MFK’s August 2018 Farmer Field Day was not without its own transportation woes.  After the farmers arrived at the first stop, 2 hours away from their homes, the chartered 60-passenger bus broke its shaft. Crack! After a little head-shaking and consternation, MFK used their jeeps to caravan-shuttle the farmers onto the next stop of the tour, but the broken bus kinked the flow of visits planned for the day. The inconvenience was not only a reminder that robust event planning is essential, but also that our farmers face the stress of poor roads and inadequate vehicles all the time.  Farming solutions for their communities must account for costly and accident-prone transportation.

Just like any great field trip, however, a broken down bus did not ruin the excitement of the day.  Our farmers glowed as we toured our first farm, exploring tree grafts with novel mango varieties, vermicomposting in plastic barrels, and drip irrigation lines in a vegetable garden.  With a new perspective on the possibilities of farming, the farmers are equipped to imagine new possibilities for their own productions.