2016 ASM Project Report
Once again the weather was a significant factor in the results of the ASM projects. Last year was extremely dry. There was adequate moisture late in the fall which enabled small grains to be planted, but about 4-6 weeks later than ideal. The winter snowfall was very low, and reserves were not replenished. Good spring rains got many crops off to a very good start, but a dry summer added to already low soil moistures that resulted in very poor to modest harvest yields.
Other factors that affected overall outcomes were the uncertain political climate that continues to affect the economy, the high prices being paid for inputs, the marketplace being destroyed by improperly regulated imports, the continued corruption that inhibits healthy growth and the continued exodus of talented people who are looking for better opportunities outside the country.
Within the church, the problem of people leaving Moldova to find jobs in other countries has not slowed down, if anything it has increased. This leaves many congregations with less and less people, and those who stay are the elderly and women. This only adds to the already overwhelming sense of despair that is already prevailing. But there is still a strong community of believers and leaders who are not willing to abandon their country and their people. If anything, their faith and their determination is stronger than ever, and this gives opportunity to partner with them to find those who are willing to try new techniques to improve their lives through better methods of agriculture.
The director of the farm continues to be a success in my opinion. The sense of purpose and vision that he has is a direct result of ASM’s showing him ways to improve the situation at Tabita. He has made incredible improvements to the buildings and grounds of the property and in the community, as well as implementing better farming techniques that has had a dramatic impact on the production of the farm.
The farm has 30 pigs, concentrating on producing food for the home, rather than selling them for a profit. They also have 33 bee hives which provides for their needs as well as providing some income. The overall performance of the crops was impressive in spite of the difficult growing conditions.
They had 1 acre of watermelons that only yielded a few to eat. They had a nice harvest of onions from their 1 1/2 acres. The 5 acres of corn yielded about 45 bushels, the 22 acres of barley averaged about 65 bushels. The most impressive was the 13 acres of sunflowers which averaged 2 1/2 tonnes per acre. A good harvest is 2 tons, with 3 being outstanding. They kept enough sunflower for oil for the farm, having enough sunflower cake for feeding the pigs along with the corn and barley. The overall impact was that Nicholae was able to produce enough crops in a very difficult year to make a profit for the old people’s home. And he keeps excellent records of all of his expenses which he willingly showed to me. I suggest that ASM keeps supporting this project.
The dry weather greatly impacted the crops at Dancu, but they still had a decent harvest. The irrigated land continues to do outstanding, providing adequate forages for the dairy, and tremendous yields of the vegetable crops that they are starting to grow on a portion of the irrigated land. Their potato yields were so great that they have enough for their food program for the elderly and were able to give potatoes to many very poor families in the villages near them.
Their small grains did outstanding, especially the triticale. This was the first year for triticale and Dumitru has planted 60 hectares because of the yields. They harvested well over 100 bushels per acre of triticale. They also had an excellent wheat yield for the growing conditions, and they have an abundance for their own needs, returned a large portion to the members of the association, and have plenty to make flour for their own purposes.
Corn yields were not exciting but ok given the conditions. They will have enough for their needs, but not much to sell after giving the members their portions. Sunflower yielded 1.5-1.7 tons, not outstanding, but very good compared to surrounding yields, many of which were under 1 tonne per hectare. Overall, they did a very respectable job given the year. This year they farmed over 50 acres No-Till and have plans to keep increasing the number of acres using that method.
The dairy continues to be the center of the farm’s focus. Right now they are milking 14 cows, and will have 32 milking by mid-winter. They are in the middle of renovating the cheese making facilities, and have stopped making the type of cheese that we have come to know them for. They are currently making a fresh cheese which they are able to sell all that they can produce. They are experimenting with some aged cheeses, which at this point have a lot of potential.
When the construction of the cheese facilities is complete, they intend to start producing a Gouda type cheese and Cheddar type cheeses. These are the types that they learned to make at September Farms. There is a demand for these cheeses in Moldova. No one else is producing them in the country, importing them at high prices.
One of the challenges they are facing, like so many in Moldova, is run-away prices of goods and materials. When they developed the plans for the construction this spring, the expected cost of materials was $28,000. They had expected to be able to complete it for $21,000 because of economizing, but now expect the final cost to exceed $33,000. This is primarily due to overnight increases in building materials. They are also faced with needing to replace the water pipes in the dairy barn at a cost of $1,000.
One of the things that Dancu is developing over the past several years is keeping track of income/expense of the various agriculture areas. This allows them to quickly see how they are doing each of the separate enterprises such as corn, sunflower, small grains and the dairy. While it is difficult to put a hard number to the economic impact of the agricultural enterprise, ASM’s support has allowed Tabita Dancu to significantly improve the return to the more than 200 members of the association, increase the amount of food produced to feed the elderly and to give to very poor families in the surrounding villages, providing many jobs, and increasing the many social programs that they provide. It is my recommendation that ASM continues to support this work.
Their are 31 children in the kindergarten this year. The repairs to the kitchen area are significant in being able to continue to provide the meals to the children who attend, and also gets them into compliance with the regulations with the state. The impact on the community is becoming even greater, as they are not only providing an excellent education, but are having more and more opportunities to minister to the families of the children that attend.
They want to continue this work as long as they possibly can, and the resources directed to them through the ASM connections help to make this possible.
At the time of this report, Angela is home with her family in Pennsylvania for 3 weeks. This first year has presented a lot of challenges, but also a lot of opportunity for her to be able to use her skills and knowledge to help vegetable growers in Moldova. She concentrated her time in the south, using Vadul lui Isac as her home base. She focused primarily on several key growers, learning their practices and doing some experiments to help to develop new methods of vegetable production.
Many people have been reaching out to her for help and assistance, and the demand on her time and resources has been overwhelming at times. I have tried to help her keep her focus on a manageable amount of projects rather than responding to every need that presents itself. This is a common dilemma here in this country of such great need, who do you help, and how much do you do for them.
Angela has also been traveling occasionally to Dancu to give some help with various parts of their projects. She has been spending a little time with InvestCredit to develop some resources for their growers. She has also been involved with Igor Hmelic and his new business of steaming greenhouse beds to control weeds, insects and diseases. This just started late this spring, and is a very interesting option to using chemicals to control these problems.
This fall, Angela conducted some seminars on fruit production, and is currently writing some literature to provide education on a number of topics related to fruit and vegetable production in Moldova.
One of the biggest areas that needs to be developed is marketing. She has been exploring opportunities as how to best develop this area. This will take some time to find a workable solution. One of the ideas is to form a co-op that would enable people to buy inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and other supplies at a more affordable price, and to be able to market their products with the power of larger, more consistent supply. Again, this is an area that needs someone to focus on full time, but she is doing what she can to initiate the process.
While there is much to be discouraged about, I also believe there is much to be encouraged about. One significant realization for me, was that while so many people are leaving, there are those who are remaining whose resolve and determination is becoming stronger and stronger in their desire to find workable solutions for the problems of Moldova. I believe that investing our time and efforts into these people will continue to bring results. It is not a time to be vessels of gloom and despair, but to be the conduit for the hope that we have that God is in control, and that He wants his children to prosper, and will provide for their every need.
It is my suggestion that ASM continues to support Iablona, Dancu, the kindergarten, and to continue to focus on the area of education thru seminars and literature. I also believe that it is important that the focus is on helping a few do things right rather than trying to help every need that presents itself. By doing this, people can have specific examples of how to find solutions for their particular local challenges.
Leslie D. Yoder
November 21, 2016