Friday, October 26, 2012

Harvest and Development

Community Harvest

On Wednesday afternoon I (Doug) went with the rest of the community to harvest two big fields of sweet potatoes. We harvested two varieties. To plant the sweet potatoes they start by planting a few left over from the previous year’s harvest. A couple of weeks later, after the vines have sprouted and are crawling across the ground, they prune it and transplant sections of its pruning, into loose, mounded rows.

It was basically a treasure hunt. We brought a few shovels but most just pushed through the mound by hand until we found a clump of red skin. In two hours we collected, weighed, and laid to dry 1,250 kg of sweet potato. We were all very proud and very tired.

Chicken Harvest

In addition to harvesting sweet potatoes and soybeans on our community work day, we also harvested chickens. Yes, by harvest we mean butcher. (Warning, this section contains graphic photos of this butchering process.)

This month, I (Jenny) am assigned to Group 4 (Chickens) in the crops and vegetables section for FoodLife Work, so I was privileged to participate in this harvest. I knew at some point this day would come but I couldn't believe it was here already. So Wednesday morning, Uncle Timo (staff member from Ghana who is the ARI chaplain and works in the chicken section) and a few of the participants collected the broilers (40 at first, then later 10 more).

The first step was to slit the throat of the chicken and put it in a cone structure to bleed out. This sounds simple but as you can imagine it can be quite difficult for a person who has only ever squashed spiders/roaches and harvested vegetables to take a the life of another organism. After explaining and demonstrating this first step, Uncle Timo invited me to do the next one. As I took the knife from him I hesitated, but with encouragement and support (and watching Anna expertly do one before me) I did it. I thanked the bird and maybe she thanked me too. And then I put her in the cone.

The next step was to scald the birds, this is to make the plucking process easier. Uncle Timo took the birds from the cones and scalded them, and then put them in a plucking drum. This is a stainless steal drum with rubber finger-like protrusions that spins around and uses running water to remove most of the feathers. Afterwards, we need to hand-pluck the rest (usually on the wings and around the tail).

After ensuring all the feathers are removed, we begin the actual butchering process. First, we removed the internal organs—keeping the heart, liver, spleen, and gizzard—and composting the rest. Then we removed the feet and heads (some of which we kept because the participants wanted to cook!).

By this point, the chickens looked like any other chicken you might find in a typical grocery store. We bagged them up and put them in the freezer to enjoy throughout the coming months.
There were about 9 or 10 of us all together working on this harvest. We processed 50 broilers in about 3.5 hours. This was an incredible experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about my food and the life of the world around me. If anyone has any questions about this process or my experience, please feel free to ask! We are planning another harvest in a couple of weeks, so I hope to refine my skills!

More pictures:


J.B.'s Lecture on “Development”

Wednesday night a special presentation was given by J.B. Hoover. He worked at ARI in Admissions and Graduate Outreach for twelve years. Now he works as the Executive Director of AFARI – American Friend’s of the Asian Rural Institute. J.B. currently lives in Seattle. When he first met Jenny and I, he smiled and told us that his aunt is a member of our home church: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas!

Even though we were all red-eye tired from harvesting chickens and sweet potatoes, most of the participants, volunteers, and staff came to the presentation and had a lively discussion. J.B.’s presentation explored the differences between the conventional model of development and ARI's approach to development. To do this, J.B. picked apart the mission statement of ARI, phrase by phrase.

First, JB explained the idea of conventional development: to help “underdeveloped” countries (e.g. the Philippines and Uganda) advance to become like “developed” countries (e.g. Japan, USA, England etc.). We talked about how viewing and referring to countries as "developed" and "underdeveloped" causes the so called "underdeveloped" countries to feel less. It causes them to feel like they need to adopt the lifestyles, policies, and values of the so called "developed" countries who seem to have all the answers.

But ARI sees the world through a different lens, one that acknowledges the ability of every human culture to find unique and appropriate answers to the issues that they face. To illustrate this J.B. began to lead a discussion on the ARI mission statement. Here is the statement and below are some points we hit on while fleshing out the exact meaning and manifestation of these ideas.

The mission of the Asian Rural Institute is to build an environmentally healthy, just and peaceful world, in which each person can live to his or her fullest potential. This mission is rooted in the love of Jesus Christ.

To Carry out this mission, we Nurture and Train rural leaders for a life of sharing. Leaders both women and men, who live and work in grassroots rural communities primarily in Asia, Africa and the pacific, form a community of learning each year together with staff and other residents.

Through community-based learning we study the best ways for rural people to share and enhance local resources and abilities for the common good.

We present a challenge to ourselves and to the whole world in our approach to food and life.

environmentally healthy – We can survive without the world of science and high-technology, but we cannot exist without nature. Our world is entirely reliant upon a healthy environment, so this comes first in the mission statement.

just and peaceful world – much like the healthy environment, nothing else mentioned in the mission statement can be achieved without a considerable level of equality of power. Jil from the Philippines mentioned also that “peaceful” does not just mean absence of war but also all other severely disruptive forces like hunger and disease.

each person – not just the “successful” members of society who went to the right school and started working for the right company.

rooted in the love of Jesus Christ – not in Jesus Christ or in Christianity itself, but rooted in the love. Because Christ’s love is without limit, we welcome people of all religions, cultures, and tribes to join our community here.

nurture and train rural leaders– life here is like fertilizer, allowing people who are already leaders in their communities to grow their skills in new ways.

for a life of sharing – not for a life of successful career in selling these useful leadership services, but founded in Christ’s love, giving freely to all who will receive.

leaders both women and men – women are mentioned first because they give priority to women. Of women who apply to study at ARI 1 in 3 are accepted, compared to 1 in 7 of men. Admissions does this for many reasons. To name a few: they believe in equality and are eager to provide opportunities to women, who are usually given few; they believe that it takes both women and men to change a society; they acknowledge the importance of female leadership in the world.

who live and work in grassroots rural communities – ARI’s work is done through people who are not separate from, but a part of the communities they are working in. Instead of sending help, they empower help that is already at work within the communities, that understands the culture, struggles, and needs of the people.

community of learning – Admissions works very hard to select people from diverse backgrounds. By having a class of participants from a broad spectrum of cultures, countries, professions, and religions, we can learn from each other. We learn about each communities' issues and efforts. We learn to step outside of our usual frames of thought.

share and enhance local resources and abilities for the common good – ARI is NOT teaching how to monopolize on local resources and capitalize on exporting them. To perpetuate capitalism like that would only benefit the rich and privileged. Every effort that ARI is making is for the common good. Using local resources is vital. The goal is not to build dependence but to empower the community.

a challenge to ourselves – Before we push the world to change, we need to push ourselves to embody the change we envision.

and to the whole world – Yes, the goal of ARI, is to change the WHOLE world into a place where each person can live to his or her fullest potential. We are certain it is possible. If you have not already, please join us in this effort, by working within your local communities, using the resources God has laid at your feet, and respecting the integrity of our ecosystem.

On Friday we took the day off. We went into town to get some coffee in a café and catch up on some reading. Then we went for lunch to eat our favorite Japanese food: Okonomiyaki! We went with a fellow volunteer, Kelly, to the restaurant that we discovered in town last week on our ride with Kathy. It was magical! 


This Sunday we are going to travel to the big city. There is a bazaar at an Episcopal church in Tokyo where ARI has sent some of its goods to be sold. We have been commissioned to travel there with JB and to help raise funds for ARI while visiting our Episcopal community here in Japan for the first time! We'll tell you all about our trip in our blog post next week!

Fellow servants in Christ,

Doug and Jenny Knight

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