“The children and youth, all classes of students, need the lessons to be derived from this source [nature]. In itself, the beauty of nature leads the soul away from sin and worldly attractions, and toward purity, peace, and God. For this reason, the cultivation of the soil is good work for children and youth. It brings them into direct contact with nature and nature’s God, and that they may have this advantage in connection with our schools, there should be, so far as possible, large flower gardens and extensive lands for cultivation. A return to simpler methods will be appreciated by the children and youth. Work in the garden and field will be an agreeable change from the wearisome routine of abstract lessons to which their minds should never be confined” (E.G. White, Special Testimonies on Education, p. 60-61).
Many ideas crossed my mind when thinking about what industries to start for our school. The possibilities seemed almost endless. However, my thoughts kept returning to agriculture. Much of Cambodia is filled with various forms of agriculture. It is a common profession to farm or own land that is being farmed. Ellen White talks so often about how the minds of children can be molded by nature and working the soil that it just seemed like the right choice. But could it be profitable? Many of our Adventist schools in America have, in the past, had agriculture programs. Growing up, I remember seeing these programs fail, causing the schools to close or have great financial strains. This isn’t what we want for the school we have started in Mondulkiri.
In July, I hired a local worker to research ways in which an agriculture venture might be profitable. We also researched several other ideas. In the end, he presented a budget to me that was quite surprising. It showed that there was real financial potential in agriculture, even with conservative projections.
We decided that we will pursue a multi-focus industry with agriculture at its heart. The program will include orchards, hydroponics, regular agriculture, beekeeping and fish raising. These aspects work together. The bees will help pollenate the plants, which will provide nectar for honey. The fish can be grown to sell, and their waste can be used to fertilize crops. The fruits and vegetables we grow can also supply our cafeteria.
Ellen White wrote extensively on agriculture and preparing soil. Studies have shown that soil nutrients have decreased so much in the last 100 years that today our fruits and vegetables give us only a small fraction of the nutrition they provided when Ellen White was writing. This contributes to many of the sicknesses we face today. I am continuing to research and learn all I can to follow God’s plan and make this program successful. When we started the school, I didn’t know the first thing about starting a school, being a principal, or anything else that went along with it. But I can attest that when I depended on God in all the areas that I fell short, He gave me the necessary wisdom and skills when I needed them. I have full confidence that He will do the same thing and bless this endeavor.
We will need to purchase more land and the start-up equipment to begin the industries. We hope to plant about 500 trees and have a large hydroponics building, two fish ponds, seven bee hives and 1 hectare of regular agriculture (see a breakdown of the costs to the right). The expenses for this are included in the Phase III fundraising goal. If you want to support this industry, please mark your donation for the “Pnong School Building.” Thank you so much for your prayers and support in this endeavor to make the school self-sufficient while teaching according to God’s plan.