Seven Pillars Ranch
Jordan Farm Project: Sustainable Greening
The Seven Pillars Ranch is a demonstration farm that has the potential to foster a greater understanding of our social entrepreneurship methodology while also pointing the way to an inspiring future of sustainable agriculture in the region.
A farm is rising from the desert sands in Jordan. The Elfenworks Foundation's newest partnership, with the Blessed Ones Society (a charity that provides care and enrichment of Jordan's orphaned children), began taking shape when Elfenworks CEO Dr. Lauren Speeth visited Jordan as a guest speaker at the World Affairs Council and the University of Jordan. While there, she learned that the Blessed Ones Society had been gifted a large plot of land and had a dream for a sustainable farm.
With the framework slated for completion in the Jordanian Badia this year, that dream will soon become a reality. One of the world's 10 driest countries will be home to a sustainable hydroponic barley farm. The hydroponic system will use 97% less water than is traditionally required for barley production, and the barley will be used as fodder for sheep—a staple in Jordanian diets. The farm will also be home to a flock of sheep, which they will grow to maturation. Some of the barley grown on the farm will feed their own sheep, protecting the crop, in part, from the vagaries of barley pricing at the markets. Historically, Jordanians have had to import the barley to feed their sheep, thanks to their non-arable land. By eliminating the importation of barley fodder, the project will help lower the region's carbon footprint. And by adding to the supply of feed for the nation's sheep supply, the project is increasing the country's capacity to sustain livestock as Jordan struggles with growing water scarcity.
Proceeds from the sale of the grown sheep will help create an ongoing revenue stream to reinvest in the Seven Pillars Ranch (so named to honor the Elfenworks Seven Pillar Methodology). Plans call for additional adjacent acreage to be converted to hydroponic systems for further farming and adding a process called silage, in which the barley is allowed to ferment for a period to produce a high-quality feed for sheep, cows, and other ruminants.
Empowerment and education will be essential elements of the Jordanian farm site, which will offer students from the University of Jordan and local high schools experiential learning opportunities. The farm will be staffed, in part, by local women farmers, empowering them with income-generating work. It will additionally provide hope and jobs to a small number of the more-than 1,000,000 Syrian refugees currently in Jordan (many of the men and women living in limbo in refugee camps near the farm were forced to flee their farms in Syria).
In 2015, we had the opportunity to present our method for social entrepreneurship at University of Jordan and the World Affairs Council. The lecture was noted on the University website, and the methodology was featured in The Jordan Times.
One young student challenged us with a question about whether we had brought our methodology into the high school setting. If not, why not? We've been pondering that, and working with our friends in Jordan to see what we can accomplish in this area, and we've created some handy explainer videos for educators (look for them on this website).
Through the following years, we kept in touch with the nonprofit organization that sponsored our visit to Jordan - The Blessed Ones' Society - and listened to their hopes and dreams. Their vision: a cutting edge farm that could raise hope and act as an incubator and educational opportunity, while providing employment to vulnerable populations nearby. The adoption of advanced farming techniques - in order to save water - makes perfect sense in the world's second driest country. Their project meets the Seven Pillar Criteria:
They are committed and clearly see an end result.
They've assembled a team with deep expertise.
It's unique, needed, and replicable.
They're committed to working with others, including the U. Jordan.
They intend to do this.
They've built metrics into their proposal.
They are committed to the long term. We're proud to be a partner in this cutting-edge project, and help them realize their vision for the greater good of Jordan and the wider region.
To all the students and social entrepreneurs we met during our visit, we say thank you! and keep on making a difference for the greater good.