Local organic farmer getting international attention for growing methods

By WEEK Producer

December 2, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 1:22 AM CDT

MCLEAN CO., Ill. -- A small organic farmer in McLean County is getting international recognition for her growing methods.

The farm is seen as a model for poor countries looking for creative ways to grow food.

It is the last harvest of the year at the CHJ Organic Farm in McLean County and the pickings are good.

"I have sweet, potatoes, white maize..."

The crops are abundant.

"I have amalant, and then I have kale, collards, spinach, red Russian."

And Farm Owner Janet Zintimbila also has company: visitors from the African nation of Burundi and a development consultant from Poland.

"Our plan is to harvest everything that is on the ground, freeze it, and come February, we want to have a big fundraiser to be able to raise some funds to be able to support our garden as well as support the Burundi who are here," said Zintimbila.

"Burundi isn't keeping up with the population growth; just simply not producing enough food," said Development Consultant June Lavelle, "and we have to be able to use intensive agricultural practices but without--there's no money for pesticides and fertilizer, so we have to use basically organic methods."

"In Burundi, we are trying to develop kitchen gardens for ...families," said Zintimbila.

A native of Kenya, Janet Zintimbila says the farm is a family affair.

"Maybe about seven years ago, my husband was struck by a very serious illness and at that time I had been doing a lot of reading and most people said 'try to eat organic', eat lots of vegetables so I asked my friends the Wettsteins, who own this organic farm and I requested if they could give me a place to plant for this garden and they were very willing," said Zintimbila.

The result.: a healthier husband, a growing business, and a bountiful yield of goodwill well beyond Central Illinois.

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