In October and November, the workers on the farm brought in a bumper rice crop! The crop was very good and the harvest brought volunteer workers from the AVDC family to the farm to help. After the rice crop was harvested, the crop was dried in a solar dryer. The solar dryer is used by laying out the rice crop inside the structure and allowing the sun to dry it down to the proper moisture content. This solar dryer can be used to dry different kinds of vegetable crops and will be put to good use for years to come.
Despite having a very good crop of rice, it opened the farm manager’s eyes a bit. Even with a bumper crop, they realized that it is nearly impossible to make a profit with rice production alone. This is largely due to the amount of strenuous labor that the rice crop takes to grow, plus the significant subsidy that imported rice receives. Although this was frustrating to hear at first, this was a very big step toward management development on the farm. Additionally, we have decided that rice production can be used as more of an evangelism tool more than a means to raise funds for future farming development.
Because rice will not serve as a good means to build a profit financially for the farm, other crops will be planted in the lowland fields. These new crops have been planted in the last month (November/December) and they include eggplant, peppers and bitterball. The three crops can all be sold in local markets and are being grown as trials to see how well they will grow.
Tree Crops (Palm & Cocoa)
The crops making great strides on the farm are the tree crops. The palm and cocoa take three years to produce their first crop. A year into production, both crops are doing very well, especially the palm. Back in August, the farm managers requested that we purchase seed and supplies to start our own palm nursery. Wanting to grow the number of palm acres on the farm in the next year from 15 to 30 or 45 acres, they thought it would make more sense to start their own seeds in the nursery. Palm plants ready to be planted in the field are $5 or $6 per plant. In contrast, the seeds and necessary supplies to grow the palm plants only cost around $1 or $2. With about 65 plants/acre, saving $3 or $4 per plant adds up to around $225/acre, or $6,750 for 30 new palm acres. These savings seemed to be worth the risk and funds were provided to start their own palm nursery in September. Since September, the palm plants in the nursery have been growing very well. The workers are planning to transfer these plants from the nursery to the field this coming June and July.
Plantain is the first tree crop that will be able to be harvested. A good majority of the plantain trees that were planted (with the cocoa trees) are growing very well and are over 4 or 5 feet tall! They are still on pace to harvest the first crop of plantain in April or May of 2018.
More lessons were learned with the goats this past fall. Unfortunately, a bad batch of vaccinations caused us to lose most of the herd. Some lessons get learned the hard way. However, we remain convinced that--given the high price for goats in the market--we must continue to advance this part of the farm. We believe that one day goats will be a significant revenue source in the long-term development of the AVDC Farm.
The number of hogs on the farm continues to grow quickly. Additionally, a new avenue of selling the hogs has come up. A nearby production plant has many Chinese workers who are willing to purchase the hogs for meat. As soon as there are hogs to sell, this may be the best option.
The newest addition to the farm is the solar pump and well. In January, a team of Dordt College students installed a solar pump to pump water from a well to the farmstead. Running water is available at each of the livestock buildings and at other buildings on the farm. Because the pump runs on solar, additional power is also now available on the farm. In the near future, it will be their goal to put up security lights and run additional power on the farm.