After 7 months of preparing the land, planting seeds and crops, hoeing and pulling weeds for too many hours to count, raising animals, and harvesting food since June, we welcomed others to share in the abundance of the table, food, fellowship, and stories of impacted lives throughout the season.
It has been two weeks since our fall fundraiser dinner, and we have so many people to thank for making October 3rd a night of celebration and helping us to raise $8,000!
Grateful hearts gathered; hope dispersed. We look forward to what is yet to come.
“For there is hope for a tree,
if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its roots grow old in the earth,
and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.”
I have always loved this verse from the book of Job. I know that I am not a tree; however, it gives me hope that no matter how bad things get there is always hope for new life and new opportunities for growth and fruit. Over the past few months, we have experienced a whirlwind on the farm and in our lives.
On June 16th, our community met the first of few storms that wrecked havoc. With straight-line winds of over 80 mph, we not only lost power for 4 days, we had major tree damage losing giant walnuts, honey locusts, pines, cherries, peaches, apples, and oaks. We had roof damage, a collapsed awning, vehicle damage, and five crushed fence lines. In wasn’t just at the farm, it was our whole community. In fact, our mayor declared a state of emergency. Power lines were buckled down over roads for miles in multiple directions. When the storm hit, Catherine and I were stuck under one of the few power lines that actually did NOT snap in half (this is a whole other story about God’s goodness and graciousness to us that day). Throughout our community, roofs were ripped off houses, barns collapsed, and grain silos thrown like rag dolls across open fields.
Between that storm, two hailstorms, and a plague of Japanese beetles we lost all the fruit from our trees. The damage has exceeded well over $15,000, without an insurance claim to make (no crop insurance).
But then, beauty came. The stress and trauma transformed into new relationships. Friends and supporters came to our aid with gasoline for the generator, chainsaws to help with damage cleanup, and a few extra meals. We made new friends with some of our neighbors. Although we lost a bunch, we gained a whole lot more. For example, one of our neighbors lost the roof to his barn, some of which landed in our field. His barn damage was so bad that his insurance company considered it a total loss. Our neighbor then, in turn, gave us the whole structure if we would tear it down. And that is just what we did! For an entire week, we tore down his 40’X60’ barn and salvaged tin, lumber, and hardware. The curse of the storm turned into a huge blessing! With the materials we acquired, we will be able to build needed infrastructure on the farm, including a tool shed, barn addition, outdoor kitchen awning, chicken tractors, and who knows what else.
It wasn’t just trees down on the farm, trees came smashing down all over our county. Most the debris from the city went to one location, which then got shredded and chipped by a landscaping contract company. Graciously, Keipos was given a few hundred yards of those wood chips to help mulch our 5 garden sites in Papillion!!! Through destruction came beauty, in the form of resources and relationships!
Immediately after the storm ripped through, a bright rainbow appeared, stretching across the sky and over the devastation all around us. At that moment, all I could think and say was “f---” the rainbow, look at all this chaos and devastation! But really we just need to “find” the rainbow, and all the beauty that it promises. Our plans rarely work out how we have them planned in our heads. If we don’t remain humble, we will be humbled. And if we think we are already humble, we will be humbled some more. LOL. I am not grateful for the storm and the loss that it caused; however, I am grateful for the new life and direction that it brought. At the scent of water, we can sprout again…
I met Mariah, one of the new interns, the other morning. While she was helping Catherine in the kitchen, I had a chance to ask her how she was liking the internship so far and she said she was loving it! She googled her way to Keipos by searching ‘permaculture’. She loves food (like, a lot!) and wanted to figure out ways to merge that love with design. Mariah studies design at Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio, so you can see where she got this design + food idea! Many other internship opportunities were presented to her, but she decided to come home to Omaha for the summer and work on the farm instead.
When I asked her what she has learned so far, she said she’s learning just how much her body can take. “Some days,” she said, “you feel so defeated and broken.” In her personal blog, she states that “farming is abuse”. Yet she loves this type of work - she feels challenged and is doing something important, something larger than herself. It feeds her soul.
One of the hardest things for Mariah so far has been learning that she can’t be good at everything. She has always been a hard worker, but on the farm one has to have certain skills to perform certain tasks. It’s hard not being physically strong and feeling like she sometimes get in the way of others but she thinks her confidence (and strength!) will grow over the internship. One of the most fulfilling things for her is knowing that she is a part of the process that brings food to people’s tables. She feels a call to grow food for others and she is fulfilling that dream (short term) this summer and couldn’t be happier about it!
Mariah is only ⅓ of the way through the internship but is already dreaming about how to use the information she is learning on the farm. Hoping to use her design skills, she wants to make products that correspond directly with the best farming practices. She would like to do that either directly with farming equipment or more on the consumer side, with products and appliances helping people in the post-harvest areas of cooking and preservation. She is really interested in the new vertical farming craze going on all over the world - mostly because it’s not organic! These systems don’t use soil (along with other requirements that make it organic) but otherwise, it’s a great idea for growing food and feeding the world. Mariah has dreams of designing a system of sustainable agriculture that can be urbanized. Farmer Jon once said that all of Omaha could be fed with the abandoned lots around the city, and that inspired her!
It’s clear that Mariah is a hard worker inspired by the environment around her. The internship has already taught her so much in 4 short weeks...I can’t wait to get to know her more around the farm and through Keipos events.
Our next blog post is about a guy named Daniel. He came to know about Keipos through some friends and decided to check it out, leading him to apply and be accepted into the Keipos internship program last fall. Before coming to Keipos, Daniel had some farming experience, already working for a father and son commercial farm, so he knew a bit about sustainable agriculture and soil building but says his time on the farm taught him even more.
“Living in Nebraska, you are surrounded by agriculture and farming,” says Daniel, “but driving past a field and working it are two different things.” Getting the hands-on experience at Keipos changed how he saw soil management. He was energized upon hearing how communities had taken desert land and turned it into fertile farming land, and that he could learn to do that himself with the help of the education he received as part of the internship. Working with Keipos gave Daniel a new appreciation for biodiversity and maintaining complex ecosystems.
Daniel told me that having both the experience at the commercial farm and the “grass roots” farm at Keipos helped him realize why environmental protections are vital. He continues to be interested in agriculture and is even starting his own garden this year. The internship program is just one facet of what Keipos does, being a part of the transformation of students’ lives through their learning and work on the farm. After 12 weeks of education and training, the students walk away with a firm grasp on sustainable farming practices as well a certificate in Permaculture Design grounded in a biblical foundation. The 5 interns, like Daniel, this summer are just 5 of the lives you affect for good when you give to Keipos!
We would now like to introduce you to Sam Stevens! I have personally known Sam since he was 10 or 11 and helped in our toddler room at church on Sunday mornings at Westside Church. He was good friends with one of my younger brothers and in a lot of ways felt like another younger brother to me. He is currently in Guatemala as a missionary and has used many skills there gained by both volunteering and working for Keipos.
Sam has told me that he learned how to take care of animals, weed, harvest, build things on the farm, etc. He learned not only how to take care of those things but also learned what a permaculture cycle looks like, how to design with permaculture principles, and how to watch the nature of the cycle to maintain and improve on it. He has taken that knowledge with him to Guatemala. There he has planted a garden on some land owned by the local church. They plan on using the garden for teaching as well as for raising animals. He also planted a small personal garden off his patio.
Sam has shared with me that his training and time with Keipos not only gave him valuable agricultural and farming skills, but helped him to solidify a strong work ethic and a deep respect for the land. He has learned how to work with nature to identify problems and keep them from recurring. This is exactly what Keipos is all about - training up people to use agriculture to positively impact their home, city, and the world. Sam is doing just that in Guatemala! When you support Keipos, you support students like Sam. I am sure the impact of his time at the farm and with the Dodds will be felt and visualized for years to come. If you would like to learn more about what Sam is doing in Guatemala, you can visit his team's facebook page, Guatemala Team: The Cinco. Or you can support him at gpvalley.com/give!
I would like to take a minute to introduce myself… Hey-oh! My name is Jessica Hudson and I have recently been hired as a part-time assistant for Keipos. I’ve been married to my husband, Graden, for 13 years and we have 3 boys together. I have known Jonathan and Catherine for a few years and we’ve grown to be close friends. When they told me what Keipos had planned for 2017 and that they needed an organized, people-oriented assistant, I signed up without hesitation!
As you’ve probably heard by now, we have a HUGE project gearing up in Papillion. We are going to plant two new gardens- 1) VEG (Volunteer & Education Garden) Patch at Heartland Family Service (Papillion), and 2) Zauha Family Garden off 1st Street in Papillion. We will use the produce grown to feed 60+ families in Sarpy County. And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also decided to put together programming and classes for at-risk youth at the Justice Juvenile Center (JJC), incorporating that with the gardens. Oh, and classes at Heartland Family Service (Papillion) on nutrition, recipes, and food preparation for the families receiving the CSA boxes. We will also offer a 12 week internship program for students wishing to learn about sustainable and organic farming practices. Whew! Obviously, this takes a lot of hands, hearts and time to make this dream a reality.
And money…. This is the part of non-profit work that people don’t want to talk about, unfortunately. To tackle a project this size, it takes a village: a director, an assistant, a people care manager, a garden manager, a team of interns plus countless volunteers. They give of their time and resources for extremely modest wages. They sacrifice time with their families, often work evenings and weekends, have other part-time and full-time jobs and pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their work. They run on adrenaline sometimes, hoping that maybe, just maybe, the work they do will impact people, their community and hopefully, the world.
To know Jonathan and Catherine is to know their hearts. Using food and farming to transform lives is their passion. They throw themselves into their work wholeheartedly. They are up early, go to bed late and rarely get a break from the end of March to the beginning of November. And you might wonder, why are they adding to their plates? Because they are crazy! Haha. Ok, maybe crazy awesome. But in all seriousness, it’s because it isn’t about them. It’s about others and their mission: the families that will receive the produce, the interns they’ll commune with for 12 weeks, the youth they will minister to at the JJC, and the community they will see changed through this project.
The truth is, this project will cost tens of thousands of dollars and we aren’t even close to reaching our goal in fundraising. We need you and frankly, we need your money. Will you consider giving so that a family may get a box full of organic, fresh produce for 20 to 25 weeks? Will you give so that a young man or woman who’s had a rough start in life will learn valuable skills and build meaningful relationships at the JJC? Can you commit to supporting an intern for 12 weeks? Will you give so that we can give everything we have to this venture?
Keep checking back to the blog in the next few weeks as I continue to highlight some of the people you will be supporting through your generous giving. And if you can’t give monetarily, please consider sharing this with others, volunteering this season and praying for us. We need all the support we can get!
Big things are happening at Keipos this year and we couldn’t be more excited! Keipos’ mission is to use food, farming, and education to transform lives. Simply put, we grow food, feed people, and transform hearts.
This season we will be working with the city of Papillion to plant two new volunteer and education gardens and use that produce to feed underprivileged families of Sarpy County and the Omaha area with the help of the Garden Givers Group, Tri-City Food Pantry, Heartland Family Services. Each family will receive a box of fresh produce every week! Good food and nutrition has the power to change the lives of the families we will be helping. Over the span of 20-25 weeks, each family will receive a box of fresh organic produce on a weekly basis. Recipes and classes on how to best use the food they receive will be provided as well.
We will also be working with the Juvenile Justice Center to provide programming for students needing summer supervision, a community service opportunity tending to the garden itself, as well as classroom education from June 8 - Aug 8, 2017. We will also be working with the juveniles who are in lock-up one day a week, providing education and hands-on gardening experience at the JJC.
Not only will they get to work on their outdoor design and garden skills, and their critical thinking skills, we will be focusing much of our classroom time on the "inner gardener" and what it means to be Forgiven, Forgiving, and Free! Many of these students will hopefully find confidence and purpose while helping to feed others, allowing their own hearts to be transformed.
These programs have the power to change lives and our city but we can’t do that without your support. We need hands, prayers, and funds to get this project going. Here are some of the ways you can support Keipos and it’s mission this season:
1. Pray for us. Pray for the city. Pray for the families who will be receiving the CSA boxes. Pray for the JJC youth who will be volunteering in the gardens. Pray for initial seed money from a grant application we are awaiting to kick-start the project with required materials.
2. Give. Consider giving a tax deductible donation to get the project started. All monies raised will go directly to preparing the land and planting, as well as towards the boxes for the 60 CSA families. 60 families x $500 per CSA share = $30,000 (!) It’s a big number but this is a big project that will have a big impact on the people and families we are serving, as well as in our city. We know that for many of you $500 is a big number- consider splitting the cost with friends, family, your Bible study, business, or church. Every donation counts! You can donate here: http://keipos.org/donate.html
3. Volunteer. It’s going to take manpower (and woman power!) to get the land prepared, garden planted and maintained, as well as packing the boxes on a weekly basis. We are looking for key volunteers who want to receive food as well as volunteers who can give just a little time each week, and/or a one time event. We will have a meeting on March 30th for those who are interested in being involved with these projects and programs. Meeting information here. You can sign up here to volunteer your time: http://www.keipos.org/city.html
4. Apply. We will be offering a paid internship for a few people! Interns will be funded through feed-a-family donations. These paid internships are ideal for students 19 years or older looking for evening work 3 to 4 days a week learning more about agriculture and organic farming. We also have the opportunity for two of those students (or a couple) to participate in a farm residency program. To apply or find more info visit: http://www.keipos.org/internships.html
We can’t wait to see how these gardens impact the lives of those around us and our city!
Will you join us?
Advent is a time of waiting. It is a time of waiting for something and for someone to come who can fix all the brokenness in our lives, a savior and king. As we near the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus, we must be ready in a posture of waiting.
Waiting is a time for preparation. Preparing our hearts. Preparing our homes.
To wait means to be in a posture of acceptance. Waiting requires open hands and open hearts.
Waiting also means to serve. A waiter or waitress takes care of your needs during a meal. Waiting means to listen and respond; waiting is active and diligent. I know this, for I am a restaurant waiter once again.
Waiting is about anticipation, joyful and expectant, awaiting the presence of our King.
As farm production goes dormant for winter, we find ourselves in our own season of Advent. We celebrate all the lives we were able to touch and all the meals we are able to serve this past year. However, we do so not knowing what the next season of our farm holds or what/where Keipos will look like in the days ahead.
This year was a difficult year on us financially. Our tools and infrastructure cost exceeded what we were able to bring in through food and farm sales. Though we were able to house, feed, and equip students, volunteers, and groups, we worked the entire year, sometimes in excess of 90 hours per week for zero personal income. On top of that the generous donations we have received through Keipos have fallen short of completely providing for our basic financial needs.
A sustainable farm cannot be sustainable if it does not have the income to harness all the land in a way that can pay the bills. Neither can a ministry be sustainable if it can’t support the servants doing the work.
Today, I was reminded of an old advent blog which I wrote four Christmas’ ago. The blog said this:
“Most of the time we do not anticipate some future redemption. Most of the time we are not looking forward to heaven. Most of the time we are hoping for some worldly thing. Usually (okay probably always) if we achieve or receive the finite thing for which we hope it rarely, if ever, leads to freedom; instead, it leads to more bondage. The truth is that sin will continue to affect me even after my goals are achieved. Let me give you an example: I could not wait to stop being a tenant farmer and own my own land. I achieved my goal, which is glorious by the way. But the truth is I just find myself in new bondage, to a mortgage instead of rent, to new animals, to new challenges of balancing life, to wanting and needing more land. Our finite hopes will always leave us empty. The hope we need to cling to can only be an open-ended hope, a future hope for what God will do, and a present hope of what God is doing in us and through us to achieve His ultimate purposes, not ours. This is Mary’s hope in her Magnificat (Luke 1)! Do you want to limit your disappointment and frustration? Open your hands and be grateful knowing God’s plan is our hope!”
Will you join us in prayer as we await the Lord and His direction for our lives, ministry, and farm? And if you are able, please consider giving a year-end tax deductible donation to Keipos.
No matter what tomorrow holds, we wait preparing our hearts, with joyful anticipation, knowing the King is coming!
Please visit the home page of our website to check out our new video and make a donation.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It is the one holiday that has, for the most part, not been commercialized by our society. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the reaping and harvest of the previous season. It is a time to reflect and remember all that we have and have been given. It is a time to welcome others to our table as Christ welcomes us to His table; family, foe, and stranger. Thanksgiving is more than gratitude, it is ‘giftitude’; it is about ‘thanksgifting’ back from all that we have been given.
On the eve of this great American holiday, I am reminded of my childhood patriotized education, about how the Pilgrims and Native Americans ate their corn and turkey, about how these two groups worked, ate, and celebrated together. I am reminded that the land we build upon is a gift from our forefathers who eventually seized the land from a people who respected the land and water, as if it had rights too.
I am reminded that my small town, Papillion, used to have a creek that flowed with crystal clear water that provided ice in winter for the community, a place to ice skate, a place to gather. But now, the creek that once bubbled over with life is a muddy drainage way for street, suburban concrete, and chemical farmland runoff. What was once respected, loved, and cherished has now been forgotten and replaced with a consumerism that more is better. Where once people lived with the land, people now live above it.
This Thanksgiving, let us remember our family members, let us celebrate with those who have come from a distance to join us. Let us remember those in North Dakota fighting to protect all of our water and give thanks for them. And in giving thanks begin to remember that this land is not ours, but only a gift. May our apathy towards the tyranny that threatens to exchange our most valuable resources for quick energy, oil, and consumption that will never be quenched be turned to a compassion that can heal our broken hearts and land.
I will leave you with a poem written about my town, around 1900 by Dr. William Upjohn, M.D. remembering his town Papillion, over 100 years ago.
On either side of Papillion stream,
Where the low winds sigh and the sun-rays gleam,
A few small cottages are nestled down,
Forming what we call Papillion town,
But a few years have passed away
Since the white man’s feet this way did stray,
And many now remember well
The red man that here were wont to dwell.
Now all are gone; like the leaves that fall…
Trampled on and forgotten by all.
In place of the wigwams, houses stand,
And white man tills the Indian’s land.
The pretty squaws of which legend tells
Are replaced by prettier pale-face belles.
The pow-wow, dear to every brave,
Is now conducted by our lawyers suave.
Schools and churches now have we
In Papillion village, fair to see;
And the railroad trains go rushing through
Fleeter than Indian horse or canoe.
Never more will Indian paddles quiver
Over the narrow, swift-flowing river.
And instead of the savage war-cry
The white mother sings a lullaby.
-Tree services give us wood chips. We inoculate them with fungi and grow edible mushrooms.
-We have turned old tires into staircases, and logs from the forest into raised garden beds.
-Construction sites give us throwaway wood and other materials. We build animal housing, farm infrastructure, and share with others.
-Restaurants give us food waste. We make soil and feed animals.
-Our local community gives us fall leaves, straw bales, and pumpkins. We mulch our gardens, and provide food and bedding for livestock. We have even fed people meals from others’ fall decoration pumpkins!
All of these things are wonderful, but they mean nothing without people! People come to Keipos wanting to learn how to grow food and heal land. Through relationship, people are being equipped, empowered, and sent into the world with new lenses and inspiration to make the world a better place!
Your waste streams are converted into productive, edible, and beautiful things. Imagine what we could do if you shared with us out of your abundance!
#GivingTuesday is just around the corner (next week), a time for giving back with hearts of gratitude. We invite you to join in this global event and support your favorite non-profits, and we invite you to give to Keipos this season.
On Tuesday, a $250 donation will go to feed a family in need next year for 20 weeks. Donations as small as $5 will help to provide a meal to a volunteer or Keipos guest. Donations of $1,000 or more will help us to provide 3-day courses devoted to food/farming education for the most impoverished in our community and in Nicaragua.
We are so grateful to you who have partnered with us and who will do so this coming season! Make your gift today and through November 29th. We will count all new donations between today and next Tuesday towards #GivingTuesday, and these funds will be directed towards providing food and education for those who need it most.
Thank you for your support of Keipos!