Polo Growing Project: An incredibly good news story

By Howard Royer

In mid-summer, due to distressing weather conditions, the prospect for the 30 acres of corn that make up the 2023 Polo Growing Project appeared bleak. But at harvest in mid-October, the results were no less than astonishing, the crop yielding an average of 247.5 bushels per acre. Net proceeds for the project stand at $45,500, a notch above last year’s near-record earnings of $45,000.

All told, 19 years of planting and harvesting the Polo Growing Project by Jim and Karen Schmidt have netted $655,625 for investing in smallholder farmers in food-deficit communities around the world to expand local food production on a sustainable basis. Supported by four northern Illinois churches, Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren among them, the Polo venture is one of the more durable growing projects in the network of Growing Hope Globally, originally Foods Resource Bank.

Adding to the good news element is that the Polo Growing Project will continue next year, named in honor of Jim Schmidt and Bill Hare whose vision and land became the foundation of the project. Steve Shaeffer, a neighbor who is renting the fields on the Schmidt farm, is the new grower and manager.

Besides directing the growing project and tending alternating crops of corn and soybeans from the start, Jim Schmidt has served eight years on the Growing Hope Globally board and twelve years on the panel steering the Church of the Brethren Global Food Initiative.

— Howard Royer is retired from a decades-long tenure on the denominational staff of the Church of the Brethren. He wrote this article first for the newsletter of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., where he is a member.


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