August 14, 2002 - Fairfield Minuteman: Panama RPCV Florence Reed: Helping to feed the world

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Panama: Peace Corps Panama : The Peace Corps in Panama: August 14, 2002 - Fairfield Minuteman: Panama RPCV Florence Reed: Helping to feed the world

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, October 20, 2002 - 12:48 pm: Edit Post

Panama RPCV Florence Reed: Helping to feed the world





Read and comment on this story from the Fairfield Minuteman about Sustainable Harvest International, an organization formed by Panama RPCV Florence Reed, which has now been involved for five Years in Reversing Rainforest Destruction and Poverty in Central America at:

Florence Reed: Helping to feed the world*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



Florence Reed: Helping to feed the world

By:Lynne Weber, Special correspondent

August 14, 2002

Whatever happened to Florence Reed, the self-described hippie-peacenik who was voted most non-conformist member of the class of 1986 at Roger Ludlowe High School?
She's running Sustainable Harvest International, a New Hampshire-based nonprofit organization that teaches earth-friendly farming techniques to hungry families in the rain forests of Central America.

Whatever happened to Florence Reed, the self-described hippie-peacenik who was voted most non-conformist member of the class of 1986 at Roger Ludlowe High School?

She's running Sustainable Harvest International, a New Hampshire-based nonprofit organization that teaches earth-friendly farming techniques to hungry families in the rain forests of Central America.

How did she go from marching in the school band to founding and managing a multi-country operation that has planted over 800,000 trees and saved 40,000 acres of rain forest from slash and burn farming practices?

It began with a stint in the Peace Corps in the early 1990s, Reed said. She had just graduated from college with a dual degree in environmental conservation and international affairs and wanted to be a schoolteacher in Panama, but the local government wouldn't give her clearance. Instead, they put her to work as an agricultural aide in Santa Rita, a tiny village of 500 families struggling with the consequences of a vanishing rain forest.

After receiving a warm welcome, Reed quickly sensed how dire the situation was. Hillsides were eroding, the water supply was depleted, and the children were hungry.

"They didn't know a better way," says Reed of the villagers, who had cleared thousands of acres of rain forest for short-term gain and were left with ruined soil that couldn't sustain enough crops to keep everyone fed.

Reed and her new neighbors set to work healing the land through a variety of methods, including reforestation and the planting of trees among vegetable, coffee, and cocoa crops. The idea was to establish sustainable farming methods that would yield enough produce to ward off hunger and increase family income.

The venture was a success in more ways than one for Reed. In addition to improving the economic and environmental health of the village, she made many friends and gained several godchildren with whom she stays in close contact.

"There was a lot of hardship but people were really happy and there was a real sense of community," she says.

Her own agency

When her Peace Corps tour ended, Reed returned to the United States with the hope of putting her new agricultural expertise to good use through another organization. Unfortunately, she couldn't find one that shared her vision of tackling third world poverty and rain forest destruction through a combination of hands-on instruction and long-term support services.

Rather than throw in the towel, she gathered seed money from friends and former colleagues to start Sustainable Harvest International, and was soon sending her first field workers into Honduras. As word of her work spread, requests for assistance poured in from all over the globe.

Today Reed has a staff of 19 full-time workers and a budget of a half million dollars a year to spend on projects in Panama, Belize, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

Most farmers need between three to five years before they are self-sufficient, she says, but since Sustainable Harvest is always taking on new clients her caseload continues to grow.

So, with such an intense job, how does she unwind?

She swims and bikes with her significant other, Bruce, and visits the property she recently purchased across the road from one of her godchildren in Santa Rita. She also takes occasional trips back to Fairfield to touch base with area donors.

Still, it isn't easy to pry her away from her day job.

"She lives her work" says friend and co-worker Sara Scott. "I've always been amazed with the scope of what she's been able to accomplish through her optimism."



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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; What RPCVs are doing; Service; COS - Panama

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