December 26, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Agriculture: Petosky News Review: Joe and Jenny Foltz worked in Agriculture in Ghana

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ghana: Peace Corps Ghana : The Peace Corps in Ghana: December 26, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Agriculture: Petosky News Review: Joe and Jenny Foltz worked in Agriculture in Ghana

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Joe and Jenny Foltz worked in Agriculture in Ghana

Joe and Jenny Foltz worked in Agriculture in Ghana

They learned what is was like to live as a minority in a world where white people were seen as the rarity, especially in small villages away from the larger cities. For Joe and Jenny, they said, it was like living in a fish bowl at times. “There's no sense of personal space,” Joe explained. “The people in our village didn't have doors on their homes.”

Joe and Jenny Foltz worked in Agriculture in Ghana

Foltz' bring agriculture experience to Peace Corps.

Monday, December 26, 2005 2:57 PM EST

Farming has long been in Joe Foltz's background.

Having grown up on the Foltz family farm in Petoskey, Foltz is familiar with the life of growing his own food, watching the crops thrive and seeing the struggles of a family trying to survive when the growing season is bad.

It was that knowledge he took with him to the growing fields of West Africa, where as a Peace Corps volunteer alongside his wife, Jenny, for the past two years, Foltz, the son of Tom and Sue Foltz, found himself once again on the farm.

Shortly after graduating from Michigan State University, the newly married couple began talking about attending graduate school together. But the two knew they both wanted to do some traveling. That's when joining the Peace Corp entered their minds.

“We thought this would be a great way to start our marriage,” Joe said.

They were stationed in a small village in the northern region of West Africa. Joe, now 24, was assigned to help with the Women's Farmers Association and the growing of food in the village. Jenny, now 25, worked in the health field, educating area residents on nutrition and HIV/AIDS.

For two years they worked on educating residents about proper food storage and proper health and nutrition. They encouraged local residents to become the leaders in their own community, teaching them what would later be taught to the others. The work was good, Joe said, but slow and not rushed, as is the pace common in Africa.

“If we accomplished one thing in a day we were happy,” Jenny said with a laugh. “We learned a lot about patience.”

They also learned a lot about the culture.

Joe and Jenny lived in a small mud brick home (mud being a staple in African construction) with several rooms that each opened into a courtyard. While considered one of the largest homes in their village, it was what most Americans would consider rough living. Their outdoor latrine did have a wooden box for sitting more comfortably though. It was one they built themselves.

They also learned some of their village's language (although English is spoken by many in Africa) and they learned to enjoy the local cuisine along with the living style.

“By the end we enjoyed the local food so much we were making it ourselves,” said Joe, noting that they grew corn, soy beans, peanuts, okra and tomatoes.

And they learned what is was like to live as a minority in a world where white people were seen as the rarity, especially in small villages away from the larger cities. For Joe and Jenny, they said, it was like living in a fish bowl at times.

“There's no sense of personal space,” Joe explained. “The people in our village didn't have doors on their homes.”

So people were always coming and going to talk to you.

“Everywhere you go everyone's talking to you and yelling at you. Not in a bad way though, they just all want to talk to you,” Jenny added. “It was very hard to get used to.”

For Jenny is was also hard to get used to being a woman in what is considered a “big men” world, where the men in power can do whatever they want and getting things done is all about which “big men” you know. She said she was often not taken seriously, especially if she was with Joe. Even if she was considered the expert, people would always turn to her husband for the answers to their questions.

But being a woman did have its fun perks at times.

“I got about 200 marriage proposals while I was there,” she smiled.

Joe said he tried to remain lighthearted about the proposals, joking with others about how many cows he could get for his wife.

In the end, for both, Africa became a second home. Even during the hardest times, like when Jenny got sick with malaria and typhoid, the two said they wouldn't trade their experience for anything.

“There is so much good about Ghana and Africa,” Joe said. “(Africans,) they love to laugh.”

Now back in the United States, both hoping to soon attend graduate school for international studies, they feel like ambassadors for the country they called home for two years.

“We're just slow,” Jenny laughed. “Joe and I need to pick up our pace.”

Kirsten Fredrickson can be reached at 439-9398, or

When this story was posted in December 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Petosky News Review

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