This Thanksgiving Monday, we give thanks to the group of Prince Edward Islanders who launched Farmers Helping Farmers 35 years ago.
The Founders of Farmers Helping Farmers
By Teresa Mellish
October 12, 2015
Farmers Helping Farmers was started by a group of Islanders who participated in the international Family Farm Consultation held at UPEI in 1979. These people hosted delegates for all over the world to discuss the issues facing farm families. We were all impacted by the hurricane which went through the Island of Dominica flattening their banana crop. And all wanted to know more about what it was like to farm in developing countries.
We Islanders submitted a proposal to CIDA asking for funds to learn more about farming in Kenya and Tanzania, two countries which had delegates at the consultation. 22 Islanders went to Kenya and Tanzania for 6 weeks in January 1981 and 22 Kenyans and Tanzanians came to PEI during the summer of 1981.
I’d like to write a bit about the 22 people who went to Kenya and Tanzania in 1981.
The original leaders of the group were Adrien van Ekris, Stavert Huestis and Barry Cudmore. I can still feel their stamp on the group- the principles of dealing directly with our partners (not beneficiaries), of keeping our overhead low, of having a democratic organization which changed officers regularly. Adrien, Stavert and Barry were all Chairpersons in the starting years.
Nine of the original group have passed away by this time. They include Adrien and Katie van Ekris, Miller and Olive Weeks, Esther and Roy Dickieson, Lloyd and Mary Vessey as well as Marion MacRae.
The people who remain active members at this time include Barry and Ellen Cudmore as well as Guy Cudmore- who organize our annual fund raising BBQ each year.
Wally and Barb Smith moved away from PEI a few years after the consultation. I saw them last a few years ago; they were living in Strafford Vermont and had been teachers. They have written books on bicycling –including Biking Canada’s Maritimes and Biking in Cuba.
Dr. Ken MacKay also moved away from PEI. He became the Director General of one of the CGIAR bodies called ICLARM- which stands for International Centre for Living Aquatic Resource Management headquartered in the Philippines. The last we heard from him he was living in Vancouver and working as a consultant.
Pat Duffy and Ernie Mutch still live on PEI .
Kees and Ellen Visser were active members for many years and still live in Crapaud.
Stavert and Edith Huestis were also active members for many years and they still live in Wilmot. Stavert served as an MLA here in PEI for several years.
I was one of the staff for the original consultation and have worked as a volunteer Coordinator for the life of the organization and it is a very important part of my life.