Former Sask. 4-Her forms club for Filipino children

Raising goats | Food program teaches communities to be sustainable

BIG BEAVER, Sask. — Ernest Andersen is using the 4-H lessons he learned as a boy growing up in Sask-atchewan’s Big Muddy Valley as a volunteer in the Philippine jungle.

“Since I was in 4-H when I was a kid, 50 years later finally what I learned I get to use over again,” he said.

For about three weeks each winter, the semi-retired mixed grain farmer travels to an area north of Cebu to help people grow crops.

“We’re teaching them how to feed themselves,” he said. “We give them a hand up, not a hand out.”

Andersen has a passion for growing things, whether it’s planting seeds, starting a business or helping people be more sustainable.

“Because of my farming experience, I know how to grow food. I could see getting these people growing food would be more beneficial,” he said.

Andersen teaches residents how to improve their goat bloodlines and build the soils to grow vegetable gardens from donated seeds. That builds on a goat breeding program first started by the Arapal Christian Camp that oversees the mission work.

Individual families can keep the goat if it is well cared for and she gives back two goat kids.

The meat and milking goats provide families with protein. Goat manure is used to make organic fertilizer, which helps volcanic soils grow vegetables like peppers, squashes, zucchinis, potatoes, cabbage and corn.

“Gardens have really taken off. A lady had sold $100 worth of squash, which is a huge bunch of money for those people,” he said.

During his trip in February, Andersen said he was almost mobbed when he started handing out packets of garden seeds.

“They were grabbing them out of my hand. I almost panicked,” he said.

“That wouldn’t have happened the first year. They realized the value of the gardens and vegetables.”

Andersen is seeing positive change first-hand from improved diets, particularly in children’s physical appearance.

“The first year I was there some of those children were thin, they were scrawny,” he said.

Andersen organized and judged a goat show fashioned after 4-H shows with four classes: best males, fe-males, showmanship and tricks.

Best trick was substituted for best grooming because of a lack of grooming gear.

“It turned out to be a good thing because the kids will spend more time with the goats,” he said.”

Andersen established a 4-H goat club called No Goats No Glory, with the aim of teaching children skills.

“We’ve got lots of people who can work but we don’t have leaders or managers. 4-H is one organization that teaches leadership,” he said.

Andersen is hopeful other farmers will volunteer to help with Third World food programs.

“The biggest reward for me is I go and help a family for a couple hundred bucks and I go back and they’re doing better. I see a change in their lives and don’t have to help them anymore,” he said. “It’s fulfilling work. It gets into your blood.”

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