Rachel McKinney ’04 is Changing the World Through Management of an Organic Urban Farmers Food Project in Africa

I am currently living out my dream job for Abalimi Bezekhaya (Farmers of Home) as the Marketing and Sales Director for our project called Harvest of Hope. I represent 100 farmers going to market with beautiful, organically grown vegetables they have grown in townships around Cape Town, South Africa.

I do everything from sales, logistics, deliveries, marketing, designing a new website, documenting stories of our farmers, helping harvest, and meeting with funders. I help get the word out on what our amazing farmers and team are able to accomplish in the most extreme conditions. I also work to promote food security and nutrition around organically grown food in townships and the Cape Town area. Every week we harvest and deliver vegetables to over 400 customers. We also have restaurants, cafes, hotels, juice companies, and others that choose to purchase from our farmers. We like to say that as an organization “we grow farmers” and our farmers are the ones growing the vegetables. Our project is one of a kind and it is truly an honor to be a part of it.

Two years ago I took myself on a service trip to South Africa (something I loved doing through OLP, and later LMU as well). I heard about this organization through a newsletter and decided to go on a tour. It was a particularly ordinary day, but I was awestruck by the passion and commitment of everyone to fight food insecurity in South Africa at a grassroots level. In particular I learned about Harvest of Hope, the selling of the surplus vegetables. Right then it became a goal to get to work on the marketing and sales side of this amazing project. When you hear marketing you don’t always think mission work – but this is marketing that can impact a farmer’s livelihood, thus changing their life. In fact, their dedication to their families through farming fuels my energy for the 7-day/week job.

I moved to Cape Town, South Africa in January and started working the following day. I have found everyone welcoming and hospitable. Our go-go’s (older farmer grannies) have welcomed me in like family and I’m attending networking events and driving veggie deliveries all over town meeting wonderful people (on the other side of the road)! I’m learning so much and loving the new culture.

You’ll know when God calls you to go somewhere or do something, because your heart will grow and stretch and break and then grow all over again. You will be doing something meaningful and enjoying it as well, which in and of itself is a nod to the foundation given me through my OLP education.

First, my love of service was something OLP really developed in me. Sister Joyce always taught us to be women of peace, and she continues to be my role model. When I am with our farmers, I try to channel the peace and joy she gave freely. When I’m having a particularly challenging day I think about her and ask her for guidance, courage, and energy.

I don’t know if I am changing the world – I sell vegetables. However, I do have the responsibility to our farmers to do my very best, think of new ways to improve our current methods, and even ask for help. We have the opportunity to solve poverty one family at a time; for me that is a worthy cause and my impetus for getting up every day.

Every one of us has talents and spiritual gifts, OLP teaches us that these are intended to be used as a part of God’s bigger picture. When we are using our gifts we are living our purpose. I love cold calling – selling veggies – I get nervous, stutter, and often feel like a fool – but I know that I am living my mission. I have ups and downs every day, (for example being short butternut, turning into oncoming traffic, getting lost in townships), but around every turn and after every disappointment there is something amazing that happens. At work we call them, “Abalimi Miracles.” My biggest lesson so far is living on the faith that something bigger and better is around the corner. I try to be thankful for the good and the bad, as everything is a chance to grow closer to God in service of others.