I was in the US when the new school year began and the first few days of the new residential year began. I was blessed by the terrific team work of the staff in moving everything forward in a well-coordinated way without my presence. I was particularly blessed by the way the management team of deputy principal/dean of students, registrar and chief finance officer work together so smoothly.
Several years ago my predecessor Patrick Nugent came to the conclusion that FTC ought to join the many surrounding institutions that supported part of their funding needs through tea farming. He was not able to bring that dream to fulfillment during his time at FTC. However, last year the Quaker Men raised funds for us to begin tea farming. We established a plan for three aspects of tea farming: leasing existing tea plantations; serving as a tea-broker in buying tea leaves from local small-scale farmers, paying them immediately and then transporting their leaves to the tea “factory” (company); and establishing our own tea
Tea growing is a regulated business in Kenya and requires formal registration with licensed companies. We are proud that the company we have chosen to work with, George Williamson, is a Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance certified company (http://www.williamsontea.com). But they have not been registering any new farmers . . . until September. So, although we have a tea field we have leased, we have been unable to begin our new role as tea farmers until now. This week Josphat Lime and our tea consultant Alex (whom long time visitors to Kaimosi know better in his other business role as the man who owns the soda stand on the corner) have been getting our paperwork handled at the factory. This past month we began harvesting our long-awaited tea.
When I arrived at FTC, for whatever historical reasons, the college was not well connected with the yearly meetings we were designed to serve. FTC was operating more as a free-standing general Protestant seminary than a program of the East African Quaker bodies. It has been one of my goals to bring the institution closer to the church and the yearly meetings. It is a source of on-going joy that one of the new bachelor’s students is FTC alumnus, Maurice Simiyu, the currently-serving superintendent of Tongaren Yearly Meeting. Simiyu will come three days a week and take a half load of courses. His presence both symbolizes our closer relationship with the yearly meetings and gives reason to hope that we can become even more effective in connecting with the yearly meetings in the future.