In 2012, four acres of Sierra Rich peach trees in Laton, California bore tropical fruit–mangosteens, jackfruit, oil palm nuts, and papayas, to name a few. The effort took a village. It started with Vernon Peterson, a Kingsburg, California stone fruit farmer.
“Hunger is a serious deal and we can’t solve the whole world’s problems, but to the extent we can, it’s incumbent on us to try,” Vernon said about his motivation.
Vernon’s longtime friend, Roy Danforth, is the technical advisor to the Centre d’Expérimentation et de Formation Agricole (CEFA), a non-profit that runs a fruit tree nursery and agricultural research in Gamboula, Central African Republic. CEFA also equips and trains local farmers and farm advisors.
The Peaches to Papayas Project
When the door opened to contribute to CEFA’s work through the Foods Resource Bank, a non-profit that connects American farmers to their counterparts in the third world, Vernon walked through and invited others to join.
He pledged to donate all the profit from six hundred Sierra Rich peach trees to CEFA and invited community members and customers of Abundant Harvest Organics, his CSA-style farm share service, to contribute to the effort by adopting a peach tree in the orchard for fifty dollars–the cost of production for one tree for one year.
Sixty-six families took advantage of the opportunity, and for a year, Vernon made a weekly video documenting life in the orchard and shared it (along with stories from the Central African fields and farmers his orchard would support) with allied community members.
From winter pruning, the peach tree adopters were able to watch fruit buds turn into blossoms, and then into baby peaches; harvest, packing, and sales; and organic solutions to common problems in the field.
Homegrown Organic Farms wholeheartedly agreed to donate their sales commission on these four acres of peaches. After summer harvest, the peach tree adopters, Vernon, and Homegrown were able to send over forty thousand dollars to support farms and farmers in Gamboula, Central African Republic.
The hope was that the year-long journey that connected the Central Valley to the Central African Republic would continue to carry over into many seasons of tropical fruit, grown and cared for by families and farmers on the other side of the world.