The Farm Plan

The following was stolen shamelessly from Josh and Linzy Browning. Thank you two for putting together such a nice story on our Hospital Farm Plan!

Although Hospital Loma de Luz exists solely to provide medical care and share Christ’s gospel with the north coast of Honduras, a lot of other non-medical work goes into keeping things running. A hospital, even a simple one with a great deal of volunteer labor, requires significant funding. Patient fees in this very poor area only cover a small portion of expenses, so the rest has to come from support raised mostly in the US. For years, Dr. McKenney (the head surgeon and founder of the hospital) has been working on ideas to make the hospital solvent.

Back in the early 90’s, Loma de Luz acquired a tract of about 60 acres, some mountainside, but about 35 acres being flat land adjacent to the coast. Of course, the hospital and its accompanying buildings take up some of that, but the rest has been sitting idly ever since. Every good farm kid knows there is money to be made off land, but what to grow in this physical and economic climate that would turn a profit had always been a question. The commonly grown rice, beans, corn, and tapioca just aren’t worth much. However, palm oil does have a significant commercial market as a food product and potentiall as a biofuel, so in the past year approximately 2, 500 African palm oil trees have been planted. It takes 3 years to produce a crop, so marketable crops should start arriving in 2012. Next time you happen to read ‘palm kernel oil’ on an ingredient list, please think of Hospital Loma de Luz, and pray for healthy little trees and God’s provision for the hospital through them!

A mature oil palm. The Hospital’s palms will look like this in a decade or two!

While African palms are the cornerstone of the farm plan, it is much more than just a plantation. In 2009, Brad Ward joined the Loma de Luz missionary community as the farm manager. He is full of ideas and plans, including growing food crops and raising animals between the trees and using the farm to demonstrate environmentally and economically sustainable methods. This year should see two crops each of rice and corn, half raised using traditional methods from the area, the other half incorporating more sustainable methods. Other crops include beans, plantains, bananas, and melons. Right now, about 30% of the palm plantation is unsuitable for intercropping, so sometime during 2010, multipurpose meat/milk goats will be added to the scheme, grazing between the trees in an intensive grazing rotation. Chickens for meat production are also on the docket. As the trees mature, their canopy will make the underlying land increasingly suitable for goats and chickens, and the food crops will be phased out. A shade house (like a greenhouse, but in the tropics, plants need shade, not more sun!) for vegetable production will be added in 2010, as well as planting cocoa and neem trees under the canopy of 10 acres of otherwise useless forest land. In addition to providing financial support for the hospital, each endeavor creates work opportunity and experience for local Hondurans and a more stable food supply at the local level.