Mission: To build farm in Dominican Republic

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SALEM, Ohio — An Ohio missionary and a group of farmers want to teach people of the Dominican Republic how to grow food instead of feeding them for the rest of their lives.

Dominican Republic

Missionary Bob Rumple, businessman Kurt Klingelhofer and Trumbull County farmer Tom Schwartz are working to get a 45-acre farm back up and running in the Dominican Republic.

The farm had been part of the Grace and Peace Missionary Fellowship, but the group is hoping to spin off the farm into an individual operation. Rumple began the farm a few years ago in an effort to feed children and senior citizens. He was raising 260 hogs and 2,700 rabbits. However, Rumple had a stroke, which forced the sale of the animals and the farm employees to lose their jobs.

Now, with the help of Klingelhofer and others, the group is hoping to get the farm operating again.
Rumple said in the Dominican Republic, a Third World country, many children and senior citizens are hardest hit by poverty. Through his mission, Rumple has decided to feed the group. However, it is not cheap and sometimes the 100 widows in his mission get meat for a only couple of meals a month.

Protein nutrients

Rumple tries to ensure the children in the mission get their necessary protein so that they can develop properly.

“They need the protein in order to develop the ability read and think. It’s not possible without protein in the diet,” said Rumple.
He said when he started his mission work, he and his wife, Karen, decided to focus on the children so they could learn skills necessary to succeed.
“The problems are never going to change if the children don’t eat right,” said Klingelhofer, who recently sold his ownership interest in K&S Millwrights, but continues to work with the Columbiana County-based ag company.

Challenges

However, the mission is not as simple as it may sound. There are challenges with the dream.
In the Dominican Republic, it is not easy to find farm equipment or labor that can handle some of the chores many U.S. farmers take for granted.

Every chore on the farm requires hand labor.
One thing that is on the mission’s side is the weather. There is a 12-month growing season in the Dominican Republic which means crops can continuously be grown.
The crops the farm has grown in the past include corn and sorghum, and Rumple has learned how to use native forage and plants to feed livestock. He even tested native-growing forage in the U.S. to find out its nutrient value, and that’s how he was raising the hogs and rabbits before his stroke.

mission photo 1

The mission support group is hoping by using the year-round growing season, they can grow cash crops so the farm can make enough money to make it self sustaining and feed people that need it.

If the farm was to run at full capacity, there is enough pens for 500 hogs and 5,600 rabbits.

Mission Photo 2

Ag Council

The next step Klingelhofer, Rumple and Schwartz are taking is to form an ag council of farmers and agriculture business people who want to help the mission get back on its feet.

The supporters are also looking for someone who would consider a long-term commitment to operate the farm. The person is going to have to understand farming, ethics, excellence and have common sense.

Equipment is needed

The ag council is also gathering the necessary equipment for the farm to operate more smoothly.
Some equipment has been located, but the mission is in need of help trying to get the equipment ready mechanically.
One piece of equipment that has been donated is a four-row John Deere planter. It has been refurbished by Schwartz and is awaiting travel to the Dominican Republic.

However, a planter is not any good without a tractor and that is one thing the group is trying to find. They need of a 65-80 horsepower tractor. In addition, they are looking for disk cultivators, a 6-foot tiller for the back of a tractor, an 8-foot offset disk, a combine and other basic farm tools.

Although the list may seem easy to find, there are some challenges to it. For instance, the combine has to be a smaller type such as a John Deere 3300 so that the cab can be cut off so it can fit in the containers so it can be shipped.

Mechanics needed

Klingelhofer said he has had some farmers already offer equipment, but it needs refurbished before it can leave the United States since there are few skilled workers or mechanics there. This means that a mechanic needs to be found to donate his skills.

Shipping

The one thing the group has on its side is that they are relatively sure the containers will be duty free because the shipments will be agriculture equipment.
However, once the containers leave the United States, a group will need to be in the Dominican Republic when the containers arrive. Since there is nowhere for the equipment to be stored, the innovative group has devised a plan. The group plans on constructing a building around the containers once they are at the farm so that they can be locked up.

The farm is not only looking for equipment donations but they are also looking for time, labor, and continuing money gifts.The group estimates it will cost between $9-10,000 for two containers in shipping fees alone. That is not counting the cost of hiring a farm manager or paying for fuel for machinery.

Mission is necessary

Klingelhofer and Rumple feel that a functioning farm would help the mission help those who need it most. That means helping the children to grow up with sufficient nutrition and education to give them a start in the world.

“If someone doesn’t try to change things, the problems will only get worse and increase,” said Klingelhofer. “You can’t overcome anything without education.”

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

One Comment

  1. Caitlyn says:

    To whom it may concern:

    A few members of my family, excluding myself, took a mission trip to the DR last summer. When they returned from their trip, they were able to share about the state of the DR and what needs to be done there. Unfortunately, I’m somewhat limited as to what I can do at this time. I’ve just finished law school and I am preparing to take my bar exam. I have loads of student loans that make me unable to contribute financially and, in order to pay them off, I will have to find a job as an attorney for some time, which also keeps my hands tied. I would still, however, LOVE the opportunity to learn about your work and possible ways to get involved. I’ve been hoping to find an initiative/organization just like this one. I think building sustainable farms and providing the people of the DR will the help and resources to grow for themselves is perhaps the most possible, practical way of making a difference there.

    As my family shared with me and has continued to share with others about their mission in the DR, one bit of information that particularly stood out to me was the existence of the obviously expensive, incredibly nice baseball complexes that many Major League Baseball teams own and operate there in the DR. I can remember my dad telling me that it blew him away to see such nice, state-of-the art, big money complexes situated in wide open spaces of dilapidation, barren land, and poverty. I can only imagine the contrast. These facilities are called ‘academies’ and all 30 MLB teams currently operate their own academies in the DR. When I began looking into these academies to learn more, I came across loads of information, some of which I’ll discuss later. Basic information and photos of these academies can be found here (http://mlb.mlb.com/dr/academies.jsp).

    HEAR ME OUT. I know this is a lot of seemingly irrelevant information, but I bring this up in order to shine light on an idea I’ve been tossing around in my mind that may be worth your consideration. I believe it’s a novel idea that is based on a very remote, symbiotic, economic relationship, but it could very well be the start of something big if it’s pursued diligently and prayed about.

    There’s an unrecognized yet striking relationship between the DR economy and major league baseball. After researching the relationship, I feel that it may be worth contacting some of the MLB team owners and CEOs whose teams have baseball complexes in the DR and speaking with them about contributing to your efforts. Perhaps these team executives, who may have even visited the DR to see these complexes, would be interested in helping. Maybe they could donate funds, maybe they could support the farmers, and maybe they could help with shipping farm equipment or even donating tractors or fuel. These companies (teams) have availed themselves to using the people and property of the DR and are, more likely than not, aware of the critical state of the food and poverty crisis among the people of the DR. Almost every MLB team reserves a portion of their annual charitable giving funds to support the cities and communities in which their spring practice facilities and regular facilities are located. These teams should also take some responsibility in supporting the less fortunate communities where they recruit a shocking percentage of their players as well. The teams really have no good excuse not to.

    Not only should the teams find themselves with a moral obligation to support these communities, but it is also likely that they’ll find incentive to offer such support. After all, wouldn’t efforts go towards creating a healthier population from which to choose baseball players? Even if that benefit is too remote to justify their donation, it would seem that an MLB team could benefit from publicizing their efforts in the DR to their fans and the sports community in order to gain support and grow their fan base. It’s a noble cause that would get great recognition nationwide and would not be an extremely burdensome cost to the team. It’s not as if we’re trying to cure cancer or eliminate disease, a charitable effort that many teams already support and one that would entail funding expensive doctors, research, and costly pharmaceutical studies. We’re trying to build farms. While still a costly effort, the costs of achieving these goals pale in comparison to other expensive philanthropic endeavors.

    The MLB is no stranger to philanthropy. From 2010-2012, MLB teams collectively donated $131,861,634 to philanthropic efforts. In 2012, the MLB collectively donated an amount to charity that was equivocated to $2,421.56 per run scored that season. In the 2012 season, MLB teams donated an estimated $40 million to the Stand Up to Cancer Fund, $39,000 to ALS Association, and $65 million to the Boys and Girls Club of America. The Boston Red Sox led the MLB in charitable giving and offered $7.6 million total to a variety of organizations and efforts in 2010. While most charitable giving among MLB teams is aimed at domestic efforts including the development of inner cities, ending hunger in America (a hunger crisis that pales in comparison to that of the DR), combatting drug use and violence, and curing or raising awareness for a variety of cancers and diseases, MLB charitable giving has not been limited to the 50 United States. MLB teams and the MLB Commission itself have made international philanthropic efforts through funding UNICEF, Heart-to-Heart International, and Pitch In for Baseball (an international initiative to provide baseball equipment to unfortunate children worldwide), giving reason to believe the teams and the commission are open-minded about offering international support.

    The MLB teams don’t just donate money overseas, they spend it in other countries as well- most notably, the Dominican Republic. Again, all 30 teams have academies in the DR. The 30 teams collectively spend an estimated $14 million annually just to operate these facilities. The Chicago Cubs and the Seattle Mariners recently spent an estimated $7 million each on their own separate facilities, one occupying fifty acres and the other occupying 24 acres of DR land.

    Hopefully, if approached MLB teams with the opportunity to help the DR in a way that is relatively affordable, extremely sustainable, and would play a huge role in developing the DR’s agricultural industry (which barely makes up ten percent of the DR’s GDP), the MLB Commission and many of the teams would voluntarily and proudly contribute to agricultural initiatives and efforts like your own. This would indeed be the best-case scenario.

    But, suppose the MLB and its member teams do not offer compassion and support voluntarily. What then?

    We hold them accountable….

    Not by force and not without love, but with a public campaign increasing awareness across the country about why the MLB is not only best situated to facilitate and advance the development of a starving, impoverished island, but also OBLIGATED TO DO SO. In reading the following, consider what baseball fans across the country would think if (a) they knew the facts about the MLB’s relationship with and activity in the DR, and (b) they knew that the MLB and its member teams refused to provide even the smallest amount of support and funding to the same unfortunate, starving, underdeveloped community they have relied upon for over thirty years to cheaply and efficiently increase the level of talent on their rosters, win games, advance brands, and MAKE MORE MILLIONS. I strongly believe a public, national accountability campaign targeted at the MLB and its member teams could be HUGE for developing and sustaining the agricultural industry in the DR and would play an important role in substantially reducing the severity of the hunger and poverty crisis there. Allow me to explain…

    Over eleven percent of all MLB players are Dominican-born. There are currently 133 Dominican players active in the MLB and even more of them in the minor leagues. Most people believe these numbers to be so high because native Dominicans have a greater propensity to excel athletically, especially in baseball, as it is the national sport. While this may be, to some extent, true, the main reason that so many MLB players are recruited in the DR is not based so much on the players’ talent as it is the players’ price tag. As the late 1990s New York Mets GM states, “You can develop 35-40 players from the Dominican for what it costs to sign a second-round draft pick in the States.” Former Colorado Rockies Executive similarly stated, “Instead of signing four American guys at $25,000 each, you sign 20 Dominican guys for $5,000 each.”

    This is exploitation.

    MLB teams are finding Dominican talent through the area’s agents, or “buscons” as they’re called in the DR, and placing the players in their DR academies for training until those players are ripe for the major or minor leagues. Many of these players are recruited in their early teen years and forfeit other work or education opportunities for a chance at a ticket out of poverty. The majority of them, however, are never signed to MLB teams or, if they are signed to any team in the major or minor leagues at all, many of them have short-lived careers due to injury, lack of talent, or other unforeseeable circumstances. Less than half the players in academies ever leave the DR to play whatsoever and a mere three percent of them get signed to MLB teams. Since these players have forfeited their education and work in order to train, they have nothing after baseball, as they put all of their proverbial ‘eggs’ into the MLB ‘basket.’

    Even while living with immense hope of fame and fortune during the months and years of training at the academies in the DR, the players are subject to uninhabitable conditions. Many DR players have reported being forced to share single rooms with as many as nine other players or sharing bathrooms with nineteen other players while staying at the academies. The player dormitories are unclean and unsafe. Recently, the Washington Nationals even received unwanted publicity for a young, seventeen-year-old boy who tragically died of meningitis in the Nationals’ DR academy. Sadly, the same teams that offer to sign these men for millions of dollars, can’t even make efforts to vaccinate the very players that sacrifice their lives for a small chance at an MLB career.

    This is exploitation

    But the MLB knows it has gotten bad. Really bad. In 2009, the Commission ordered Sandy Alderson to travel to the DR to take stock of the MLB operations there. His resulting report called for intensive restructuring, regulation, and curtailing corruption. This report, however, was only advisory, so little has changed. The commission did place caps on the amount each team can spend on signing foreign players in order to reduce the exploitation, but the effects have not yet been realized. Sandy Alderson, one of the VERY few MLB executives to ever have a first-hand account of conditions in DR academies, actually went on to create an initiative in 2010 to provide educational opportunities for the players who were training at the DR academies. His efforts were intended to provide the trainees at academies with vocational training and basic education so that, when the vast majority of them don’t make the cut, they’ll have options to earn a living and something on which to fall back.

    The death of the young boy at the Washington Nationals’ DR academy brought a great deal of publicity to some of the exploitation in the DR. I’m of the opinion that this blemish on the ‘international resume’ of the MLB commission and its member teams, coupled with other facts about the MLB activities in the DR, makes the MLB and member teams somewhat vulnerable After all, they don’t want to lose fans (money) and they certainly don’t want it to get to a point where human rights activists groups come knocking at their doors with investigations and public accusations. They’re vulnerable…the MLB needs to make efforts to show the public that they’re doing good work in the DR before millions of Americans become aware of the contrary truth. This is their chance. If they don’t take it, it’s not entirely inconceivable to think that a public campaign could make them.

    -The MLB and member teams need talented, cheap Dominican players.
    -They need the people of the DR to advance in health and nutrition.
    -They need good publicity with regard to their presence in the DR.
    -They need people to forget about the bad reports of academy conditions and the death of the Nationals’ trainee.
    -They need to give back to a community that has allowed them to acquire nearly 500 MLB superstars and millions of dollars since the 1980s.

    How do those needs relate to the efforts to achieve sustainable farming in the DR?

    -By supporting sustainable farming in the DR, the MLB preserves its relationship with the Dominican people and keeps the recruiting door open so they can acquire the players they need.
    -By assisting with agricultural development, the MLB serves itself in advancing health and nutrition among the very children that may find themselves in one of the 30 DR MLB academies in the future.
    -Offering to cover nine or ten-thousand dollars of shipping costs to get farm equipment to the DR is quite possibly the CHEAPEST and most EFFECTIVE publicity the MLB can get with regard to their DR relations.
    -Donating a few used tractors or some fuel to help feed and support the DR would not only cause the public to forget about the MLB’s exploitation and blatant disregard that has been publicized, but it would serve as a statement from the MLB that it cares not only about its players, but also the homes and families of those players.
    – The DR has contributed greatly to the success of many major league teams as well as the overall success of the league itself. The least these teams could do to show their appreciation is offer some of the resources the DR’s people need to grow their own crops.

    The 30 MLB teams are collectively worth $24.3 billion. In comparison, the teams themselves are worth nearly a quarter of the total GDP of the entire Dominican Republic.

    The MLB gave $65 million in one year to the Boys and Girls Club.
    They gave $40 million in one year to fight cancer.
    They give millions to the communities that are home to their training facilities in South Florida.
    They give millions to develop inner city schools, organizations, and nonprofits.

    Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, and David Ortiz are some of the best in the game. There’s no way of knowing how much they’ve helped their teams earn. They’re all from the DR.

    11% of the MLB is Dominican. WHAT IF, for the 11 % they GET from the DR, the MLB gave 11% BACK to the DR?

    11% of the amount the MLB donated to cancer research in 2012= Over $4 M
    11% of the amount the teams annually spend to operate their DR academies = Over $1.5 M
    11% of the average cost of one academy in the DR= Over $550,000

    But we don’t really even need to go so far as to ask for 11%. What if we only asked for, let’s say, 1.1 percent?
    1.1% of the amount donated to cancer research in 2012= $440,000 (Eleven brand new tractors)
    1.1% of the annual operation costs of DR academies= $154,000 (2 tractors, mechanics, and shipping)
    1.1% of the cost to build the Seattle Mariners academy= $77,000 (1 tractor, shipping, and repairs)

    We, on behalf of the Dominican people, are not asking much of the MLB…and we certainly aren’t asking for anything the DR does not deserve or legitimately need. The MLB has an opportunity to support a beautiful cause, feed the hungry, sign healthier players, grow their fan bases, recover from bad publicity, and give back to the very place that has given them opportunity, advantage, and success for over thirty years.

    The MLB has the resources to help…
    They have the reasons to help…
    And I believe, through prayer, pursuit, and a big enough army, we can keep them from saying no.

    Nearly every MLB team roster consists of 3 or more Dominicans.
    3 out of every 5 children living in the DR won’t get enough to eat today.

    Thanks for taking the time to consider my thoughts. I realize these suggestions may be beyond the scope of what most people comment and you may not even agree with my assertions or desire to receive help from Major League Baseball at all. I do, however, think it is an option. Sure, I’m speculating. Sure, it’s a stretch. But think about what could become possible if this worked…

    I’d love to keep up with your efforts and learn about opportunities to help in ANY way. Again, thank you for your time and God bless.

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