VEGA's Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer of the Year
Name: Erin Schneider
Current title/profession: Co-owner of Hilltop Community Farm
Current hometown: La Valle, Wisconsin
Areas of expertise: Organic farming, composting, vegetable production, beekeeping
Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in West Africa
Location of the project: Senegal
Organization that sent the volunteer: NCBA CLUSA
Erin Schneider has been volunteering with NCBA CLUSA’s Senegal Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program since 2012. She has completed six volunteer assignments to increase the Senegalese women’s economic empowerment and food security for the community. Her trainings have included organic farming, composting, vegetable production, seed saving techniques and beekeeping. Due to Ms. Schneider’s vegetable seed saving techniques, some of the farmers she worked with in 2016 are now producing enough quality vegetable seed to sell to local networks.
As a woman farmer from La Valle, Wisconsin, Ms. Schneider has built strong bonds with those she calls her “soil sisters” in Senegal. Because of her engaging trainings, these women farmers and the host organizations continue to ask for her to return. Ms. Schneider has gone beyond the traditional work of her volunteer assignments by helping foster other local partnerships. By reaching out to her now established network of local partners in Senegal, Ms. Schneider connected host organization Missirah Women’s Group with the local beekeeping organization to ensure the Missirah women would receive follow up training and support.
Ms. Schneider is a true ambassador for the F2F program, sharing with others how F2F leverages volunteers to improve global food security and natural resource management, as well as fostering cross-cultural connections. Ms. Schneider has shared her F2F experiences by hosting a roundtable, speaking at a university panel presentation and through the undergraduate courses she teaches. Thanks to Ms. Schneider, four other experts have become F2F volunteers. In addition to co-owning and stewarding Hilltop Community Farm, Ms. Schneider serves on the Administrative Council for the USDA North Central SARE Program, is the Sauk County Chapter President of Wisconsin Farmers Union, and was a recent North American delegate for the World Farmer Organization-Women in Agriculture Committee.
As Ms. Schneider wrote in her blog post from December 2016, “What is heartening in all my experiences farming and with the F2F program is that composting is a universal language farmers speak the world over…In all of the dozens of farms and hundreds of farmers I’ve interacted with through the F2F program, everyone was composting in some manner…I think we need more farmers who are willing to engage with their hands, hearts and heads to build a better world—one compost heap at a time.”
This article was written by NCBA CLUSA.
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