A unique dairy-based “rent a cow” project has brought three Christian Reformed churches in Kalamazoo, Mich., together with Growing Hope Globally (formerly Foods Resource Bank) and World Renew to help alleviate hunger around the world.
Since 2007, Kalamazoo’s Grace CRC, Heritage CRC, and Third CRC have been “renting” cows, that is, covering the costs for their feed and care at Red Arrow Dairy in Hartford, Mich., which is owned by a member of Grace CRC. The value of the milk produced by those cows is donated to the work of Growing Hope Globally and, through that organization, funds projects with World Renew. On average, the money the milk brings on the market has been about twice the cost of renting the cow, according to Simon Tuin, pastor of Heritage CRC, thus doubling the churches’ contributions.
Tuin said the $40 weekly cost of “renting” the cow is spread across the congregation in creative ways. “We invite individual members to rent a cow for a week or a month. The rest of the congregation holds the ministry up in prayer, receives the reports, and is invited to celebrate the great work.” To maintain interest in the project, Heritage has named their cow Daisy; the congregation also enjoys occasional celebration gatherings at the dairy. The other two congregations raise funds for the cows through regular giving and offerings and are also welcomed to the Dairy Days.
Growing Hope Globally, which works with smallholder farmers through 47 food security programs in 27 countries, reports that the churches’ fundraising is further increased by the contributions of many in the project. “By partnering with the dairy and five agricultural suppliers, nearly triple [the amount given] is raised to support lasting solutions to hunger.”
According to Rachel Conley, an associate regional director for the organization, besides Kalamazoo’s dairy model, many Christian Reformed farmers in six states support Growing Hope Globally by using a crop-based model. These projects allowed the organization to contribute $481,807 to World Renew hunger relief in 2017. John Vander Ploeg of Grace CRC said that over the years Kalamazoo’s dairy project, combined with Grace’s separate crop-growing project, has raised close to a half-million dollars for Growing Hope Globally.
Growing Hope Globally allows participants to direct the funds of their projects. In recent years, Kalamazoo’s Dairy Growing Project has elected to send its funds to World Renew for Nicaragua.