15 Jul St. Jude Farm
Nine years ago, St. Jude Children’s home acquired 198 acres of land for farming. Brother Elio Croce, the deputy director of St. Jude, cleared a road to provide access to the land, and began the tedious process of starting a farm. The journey has not been easy, but nine years later the hard work and dedication to the farm is finally starting to pay off.
We arrived at the farm and met Richard, the lead worker. He and three other men are the only full-time staff the farm has. The workers live in homes located on the farm. In addition to the full time staff, secondary school students that graduated from St. Jude Primary School travel to the farm on school holidays and weekends to help as needed.
When we arrived, one of the first crops we saw was a beautiful field of rice. In addition to the rice, the farm is currently growing bananas, maize, cassava, corn, yucca, zucchini, green pepper, tomato, fennel and lemons. We purchased potato leaves on our drive to the farm. The workers will plant the potatoes, papaya, eucalyptus and passion fruit in the future. In addition to all the food planted, the farm has several pigs as well as bees to produce honey.
Caring for such a large farm takes an enormous amount of work. A drip irrigation system helps water the crops, and dogs chase away baboons and elephants trying to eat the growing food. Many plants suffer from disease despite the use of anti-fungal spray. A bacterial infection kills tomato plants and is difficult to remove. See: Fusarium Wilt of Tomato
It is necessary to plant, weed and harvest all 198 acres of land by hand. If not done properly and quickly, the crops will die. This is challenging for the workers, and nearly impossible. Farming equipment was recently donated and will alleviate this problem. However, it will be unavailable for use until the workers can find training.
The food grown at the farm feeds the children at St. Jude Children’s Home. A new factory purchases cassava to make vodka. Leftover food is stored and sold in the off season.