Growing in Ghana
While the fall harvest near Dan Peters' home town of Milford wrapped up more than a month ago, it has yet to begin in Ghana, where he is a partner in North American Farms.
Peters has partnered with Dale Opheim, of Graettinger, and Ghanian Chief Thomas Owusu Boanoh to help feed the people of Ghana. Opheim, a former customer of Peters at Pro Co-op in Graettinger, started the organization and asked for Peters' assistance.
"When I saw photographs of corn fields killed by improperly applied chemicals last fall in Ghana, I decided it was time for me to lend a hand," Peters said. "We're taking a chance on this collaborative venture, but I believe it will pay off."
In August, Peters helped with the first harvest of 2012, which yielded 60 to 70 bushels per acre, compared to the natives' harvests of 10 to 20 bushels per acre.
"They do theirs by hand; we ship machinery over," Peters said.
An eight-row planter was used to plant the first crop in March. Even with a combine on site, the 1,000 acres of corn had to be picked by hand.
"The combine couldn't get through the field," Peters said. "It was too weedy. We're still working on the right chemicals to use over there."
One challenge is that chemicals can only be bought in liter bottles. The corn itself is purchased in 50 kilogram bags and must be returned to those bags when it is harvested.
Another challenge, in addition to a language barrier, is a lack of good roads.
"It takes 90 minutes to two hours to go 20 minutes to our farm from the nearest town," Peters said.
Furthermore, temperatures rarely fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and have been known to reach 120 degrees or more in the country near the Equator and Prime Meridian.
"Corn doesn't like really hot weather," Peters said. "It likes to take a break at night and it's not getting that."
Peters does not get much of a break from the heat either, as the area in which he lives does not have running water or electricity.
"You have to face the heat without air conditioning and fans," he said.
Those conditions cannot keep Peters away. He's hoping to improve yields to 100 or 150 bushels per acre in the sandy loam soil that is known for producing nuts, trees and pineapples. He'd also like to find a soybean variety that will grow there.
"There are still a lot of things we're working on," Peters said. "It's just a challenge, but we're trying to help them out."