Planting Inspirations: from New England to Central America

Florence Reed, the founder and director of Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) spoke to Antioch students, faculty and alumni on Friday, March 31st, 2006. The lecture was an invigorating welcome back after a two week spring break.

Reed discussed the successes of SHI in terms of the organization’s mission-to support struggling farmers throughout tropical Central America while concurrently supporting ecological systems by reducing deforestation and soil erosion. The methods include simple, efficient sustainable farming techniques like agroforestry, green mulching and cover cropping. Over the last ten years SHI estimates that its participants have:

  • Planted more than 1,200,000 trees
  • Converted thousands of acres to sustainable uses, thereby saving tens of thousands of acres from slash-and-burn destruction
  • Improved nutrition through the establishment of more than 200 organic vegetable gardens
  • Increased farm income by over 450%
  • Built 165 wood-conserving stoves (saving 1,650 trees per year)

This approach represents a valuable tool for conservation scientists and furthers the argument that protected areas are not the only way to safeguard biodiversity. Other lessons learned are SHI’s integral use of local extension agents as a vehicle for good communication and building trust so that farmers enroll and stick with the program.

CTEC looks forward to working with Florence Reed and Sustainable Harvest International at our fall symposium, Banking on Biodiversity: The Ecological and Socio-economic Dimensions of Sustainable Agriculture, October 28th, 2006.

For more information, visit: or call SHI’s Maine office at 1-866-683-6594.