The Story of Harvest Craft
Harvest Craft was born in July of 2013. However, it was conceived months earlier in a dorm room at Biola University, and through discussions while pulling weeds at the campus garden. Brendon Anthony and Craig Erickson met in the Fall of 2012. At that time Brendon was 19, and Craig was 23. Brendon was pursuing a degree in Environmental Sciences and Craig was in between semesters at Biola working on an Intercultural Studies degree and living in Haiti.
Brendon had started working at an aquaponics farm at that time in Orange County, and Craig had been living in Haiti developing an aquaponics farm for an orphanage down there. Through mutual friends they were introduced, because if two hippies were crazy enough to enjoy using fish waste to fertilize plants, then they would probably be friends and kindred spirits.
Those mutual friends were certainly correct. Craig and Brendon instantly started to dream and discuss about their passions: social justice and environmental stewardship. And so, through countless brainstorming sessions and conversations across farms in Orange County, Harvest Craft was dreamt into reality.
Our heart behind starting Harvest Craft stemmed from a desire to do development work effectively and holistically. We wanted to stop the handout culture, and ultimately we wanted to empower people overseas, and be so good at our jobs that we worked ourselves out of them.
So in February of 2013, Craig ventured back to Haiti to start establishing relationships on the ground, and Brendon started on the paperwork and logistics. Five months later Harvest Craft became a 501©(3) non-profit.
Shortly after, our work in both Haiti and Mexico began. We started working under what we call now, our “institutional sustainability” model. This meant that we developed food production systems, mainly aquaponic farms at that time, for pre-existing organizations or institutions like: schools, orphanages, churches, community centers, etc.
In November of 2013, our rooftop aquaponic farm in Mexico was completed. In January of 2014, our first Haiti project launched at Children’s Hope Orphanage in Jacmel. The development and construction on that project lasted around a year, and we began to network with an additional orphanage down the road in Cyvadier. This orphanage is called, Hands and Feet Project, and we helped implement another large-scale aquaponic and fish hatchery facility there on site. This project was initiated the following Spring in 2015.
In the Summer of 2015, we started to really pick up steam. We hired an In-Country Director for Haiti and we started what we now call our flip-side-of-the-coin program, “Without Walls.”
Without Walls stemmed from the desire to help folks outside of already pre-existing aid. We loved partnering with other institutions to help them in their quest for sustainability, but we felt as if there were others to impact. We wanted to cultivate change for the people who did not already have access to relief, non-profits or funding. Ultimately, Harvest Craft strongly desired to empower those living beyond and without the walls of an organization.
So in June 2015, we launched the community development side of the organization and this pursuit has blossomed in the recent years. We started working with a community in Jacmel and started a chicken farm with them. This project employed 3 people, sold over 7,000 eggs per week, and left extra money at the end of each month to go into a savings program that the community can partake in and pull loans from.
We thought, this was a beautiful model! At it’s core, its economic development, but it became so much more than that. We realized that when we started to take care of the basic essential needs by helping marginalized community members find a job, earn money and gain access to food, other benefits flowed from there. This is again where we see our holistic vision come to fruition.
- Where economic gain begins, social justice and environmental justice follows.
- Relief hands money, food, and resources out.
- Development dignifies, trains, equips, educates, and ultimately empowers people to achieve all that on their own.
From here, we’ve established four other community agriculture and animal husbandry programs under our “Without Walls” model all across the nation of Haiti. We are seeing lives being changed. Those being impacted are not just those that work in the projects, but the impact ripples outwardly. Sustainable development means:
1. Family members now being able to go to school instead of being sold into sex trade. The whole local economy in the community improves due to others that get to take part in the micro-finance programs.
2. The surrounding environment no longer needs to be exploited for resources to be sold, trees are no longer cut down for charcoal, but are stewarded for fruit.
3. Malnutrition no longer needs to exist because families have access to local, cheap, organic, and healthy food. Furthermore, they’re the ones growing it. This is the true difference and progression from food security, to what we believe in, “food sovereignty.”
4. A career in agriculture, animal husbandry and food systems is now available through the vocational training that takes place on site.
5. Orphans can remain close to their orphanage family, because now instead of aging out at 18 and being kicked to the streets they can stay in their community and work at these projects.
The holistic vision starts from preventing the unimaginable to redeeming the unspeakable. If we can help resolve these massive global issues through relational, long-term, science-based, community-focused, sustainable, and economically profitable systems, then our goal and our mission that was born in 2013 is being executed effectively. So far, so good, we’re going to keep on trekking.