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What can one person do about hunger?

October 31, 2013

P1030982My daughter Michelle’s childhood drawing in honor of her grandfather’s commitment to combating hunger.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about hunger and CROP walks and my own father’s history in the development of Indiana’s statewide CROP program–Dad’s very practical way of working to create more peace and harmony in the world.

Mom, who doesn’t get on the computer unless one of us helps her (and she does love that), responded to a number of my blog posts by old fashioned letter. (I print out most of my blog posts and send them to her,—great technology workaround here.) She had a few “comments” or corrections for me, especially about her role in the first Friendship Acre Farm in Indiana which my father spearheaded. I had said she “helped organize a wonderful potluck dinner that day, like at an old fashioned barn raising.”

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Mom:  “I had nothing to do with managing the CROP dinners. I asked Elva Honeyager to do it and she was glad to do it. I figured you knew your mom couldn’t handle that. NO-WAY—I am not a cook like your family is. I cooked for many a dinner for farm hands etc. but that was it. I am sure you remember I told North Goshen women [our church, North Goshen Mennonite] I would work on any committee but Food!”

Ok. I stand corrected. I hope you can hear Mom talking here.

P1040462Then today I ran across a place mat Mom saved documenting Indiana’s CROP program history, used apparently at their 40th anniversary banquet in 1988, and also one of my newspaper columns from 1996 in which I interviewed Dad, written about 10 years before he died when his mind was still good.

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The placemat is special to me because it has a picture of not only my father, Vernon U. Miller, far left, but my grandfather, Uriah M. Miller (seated with his cane and hat), one of the last photos I have of him, taken in 1963. Grandpa died the following spring, almost 92 years old.  In the center, leading the program, is the director of the Indiana CROP program at the time, Gerald Wilson.

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Grandpa Uriah M. Miller, his hat removed for the noon time brief dedication litany and prayer. I also love this photo of two women in the background, my best friend’s mother left, Sarah Mae Miller, and Martha Weldy, far right corner, co-owner of the farm dedicated to CROP.

But here in some of Dad’s own words, is how he went about enlisting sponsors for the farm, which is a good tactic anytime you are tasked with such a thing for a fund raiser, auction, or whatever.

Brief background if you didn’t read my earlier post: Dad’s own participation in CROP had started with him donating the proceeds of one acre to hunger efforts. But he thought, “One acre is such a small amount. Why don’t we try to plant a whole farm for CROP? I know where there’s a farm for rent. We could rent it and I’ll ask my neighbors to come and we’ll plant the whole farm for CROP.”

He set a date for the planting and rented the farm. He called in all his favors asking for donations from seed corn suppliers and fertilizer dealers he had patronized through the years. “We actually got more fertilizer than we needed!” he recalled.

Later in the spring Dad needed nitrogen for the corn [of course today that is considered environmentally questionable, at best, but in the 1960s, it was standard practice]. And nitrogen was very expensive.

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So a banker friend coached Dad to contact a small bank in the county who did a lot of farm business to get them to make a small donation, then he should go to the next bigger bank asking for a bigger share, and so on until he got to the largest bank in town. Dad recalled how it went:

Dad: The city banker said, “We have no farm trade at all. But you say those other banks have all given?” Dad affirmed that the other bankers had antied up. The banker replied, “I’d be crazy if I wouldn’t give you the money.” So the biggest bank came through with the biggest check of all.

Dad said the next year, “Three other communities in Elkhart County, Indiana planted similar farms, and the following year, there were 30 Friendship Farms planted in the state and within 5 years, there were 155 farms. That idea kind of ran its course and now CROP walks are the in thing,” he told me in 1996. (I have not been able to verify his numbers but the point is the idea expanded greatly.)

Eventually, a whole delegation from Brazil visited the Friendship Acre Farm, with several of these guests staying in our home.

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What can one man do for hunger or any other cause?  (Start small, ask your neighbors to help, and get the big fish by enlisting smaller fish first.)

Oh and P.S. Mom says the magazine picture of my sister and dad ran on the front of Prairie Farmer, not Indiana Farmer. Consider me corrected.

Thank you Mom, Dad and Elva.

***

Here is the recipe from my recipe box which I printed long ago, and published in my Whatever Happened To Dinner book which I credited to Elva Honeyager, the awesome cook who cooked for hundreds of kids every day at my elementary school in Middlebury, Ind., and who apparently thought nothing of organizing a barn raising type dinner.

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From → Faith, Family Life, Food

8 Comments
  1. Caro-Claire Wiles permalink

    Thank you once again for another very interesting story of the background history in the development of Indiana’s statewide CROP program– including the changes that your mom sent for your earlier article.
    Good thing she is still around to keep you on the straight and narrow (LoL)
    The pictures are very interesting to see too.

    • I was just thinking this morning how lucky and blessed I am–indeed–to still have my mother. Yay! In the years since Dad has died in particular, I’ve grown much closer to mom — cell phone talking helps that too!

      • Caro - Claire Wiles permalink

        You are blessed to still have your mom with you.
        Both of our parents have been gone now for several years and we have become the “matriarch and patriarch” of both our families .
        We recently moved near to where my daughter and her family lives and one of our married granddaughters and two great grand babies are also nearby.
        It is a special feeling to be so close to them and get to have time we didn’t have before the move

  2. Velma Peck permalink

    I was a teenager at North Goshen Mennonite church when your dad asked me if I could paint a giant sign for the Crop Farm. Thanks for showing the photo of it (in the background of the Brazilian delegation, 1966). I had forgotten how primitive the lettering was, but that sign lasted for many years! Velma Miller Peck

    • This is so cool! Thanks for adding this to the story. I DO remember that you painted that sign, and how grateful my dad was for such a nice sign for the effort. I’m glad too it showed up in that post. Now it can live forever (or at least many more years) online! Thanks Velma!

      • Velma Peck permalink

        Thanks, Melodie! Velma

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