Sustainable Harvest International
From a simple yet passionate beginning, Sustainable Harvest International has grown to encompass sustainable agriculture programs in three Central American countries.
It started with Florence Reed in the early 1990s. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama where she observed local farmers and thought there had to be a better way for them to survive and prosper without the ubiquitous slash-and-burn methods they were accustomed to. With her first office in her parents’ spare bedroom, Florence brainstormed how she could help and focused first on grassroots farmers in Honduras.
Sustainable Harvest International was founded in 1997 with the knowledge that “grassroots change is the longest lasting.” They currently empower over 3000 farming families to prosper in the present and sustain their lands for future generations.
Executive Director Elliot Powell says it simply: “If we hope to move the needle on climate change, we need a momentous shift in the way we produce food.” Knowing that environmental degradation and rural poverty are linked, the solution must address both.
Therefore, the newest initiative for Sustainable Harvest International is the Million Farm Transformation. Powell notes, “In this ambitious vision for the organization, we’ve set out to regenerate one million farms on eight million acres of land, supporting some five million people to achieve food sovereignty by 2030.”
For over seventy years, the Rodale Institute has pioneered the movement away from conventional farming methods to organic agriculture. By promoting organic no-till and biological practices, they look to create economic vitality in farming communities and to help people make informed choices about the food they eat.
“We want to help to build regional food systems,” says Jeff Tkach, Chief Impact Officer of Rodale. “Our number one priority is soil health, and our number one goal is to transition farmland from chemical to organic.”
Consumer education is essential to their mission. “We call it the power of the plate,” says Tkach. “Everyone votes with their dollars.” To that end, they have created a virtual campus of online courses for consumers and farmers alike.
Their most recent offering, “Being a Regenerative Consumer”, is available online, on demand, and for free. It includes topics such as nutrition and decoding labels, avoiding pesticides, and how regenerative organic agriculture can mitigate climate change.
This course not only gives participants the opportunity to engage with Rodale’s staff, but to access curated content that Rodale has been actively researching throughout their existence at any time with no expiration date.
For Tkach, it’s a passion and a calling. “Our highest purpose is to help people restore a right relationship with our food system in an effort to heal our society.”