David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Monday, July 20, 2015

Wellspring and guest

We have long time friends at Wellspring Organic Farm and Retreat Center, just down the road from our home. We know the founder and also the Executive Director who is a fellow Rotarian. We happened to meet at a Rotary meeting a few months ago and talked about the possibly of having someone experience Wellspring, working in the fields for room and board, learning the “systems” and practices of Wellspring. We approached Wellspring because in March while meeting with Oikos we shared that Southeastern Wisconsin is rich in organic and aquaponics farming. We suggested that Oikos send someone to visit for the summer to study these practices from a North American perspective and compare them to the current Salvadoran practices. Oikos sent a staff member to us on June 7 to be with us for 6 weeks. He lives at Wellspring with six other adults. One of their staff also speaks Spanish allowing the transition from English to Spanish on details about farm topics as well as participating in class discussion. Wellspring operates year round selling produce grown in a huge green house. They get an early spring start on outdoor plants using hoop houses. Classes are offered as time allows; this time of the growing season is devoted to planting, weeding, harvesting. Wellspring is also a CSA. People join as members for a full payment or a lesser payment if combined by working four hours a week to maintain the fields. Membership entitles the family to one bag of food per week. Weeding is the current need and he had enough after 6 days of back breaking weeding. The CSA is a new concept for him and he loves the idea. He has already approached Oikos with Salvadoran version of CSA and he tells us the idea was well received. The Salvadoran version means they need to consider the local culture for implementation. We took our guest to visit Will Allen’s Growing Power. He liked how they improve the quality of soil by adding organic materials. He said they can also implement this in El Salvador by making arrangements with the local mayor to collect the organic material the street cleaners sweep up daily after the open air markets close. With this organic material added to the soil and the addition of red worms, they will be able to restore soil that has been poisoned by the over use of chemicals. Will Allen’s has hydroponics but it has become too sophisticated to replicate in rural El Salvador. So we also visited Lone Duck Farm where this newer vertical farm is just 2 years old and has a simpler version of aquaponics. In both instances raising fish are an element of the “system”. We saw some beautiful three pound tilapia, perch and bluegills. Again he said they can do this. El Salvador currently raises tilapia but not 3 pounders. We asked the owner of Lone Duck if he would spend a week in El Salvador to help build a system - he didn’t say no, but we didn’t get a commitment either. His social life is also in full gear. Three of the adults at Wellspring have transportation and they do local activities during the week and on the weekends. We enjoy time with him on Sundays and others from our church also have time together with him. He has a beautiful smile and it was at its biggest when we visited the south side of Milwaukee and pulled up to the Salvadoran restaurant for a robust lunch. We don’t know how many transferable concepts he will be able to take back to El Salvador but there is no risk and the potential is limitless. David y Nancy