Seeds of Hope — Family Circus


Family Circus feeds more than two thousand malnourished children and widows in the Philippines. To provide food for even more starving people around them, Darrell Blatchley has started a successful gardening program.

Traditional gardening didn’t work well. “Our soil was rocky, mixed with clay and very little nutrients for the garden,” Blatchley explains. “We worked hard but had little to show for it.”

So the Family Circus garden team developed a series of interdependent fish ponds and gardens. The gardens’ rock beds filter and clean the ponds while the fish water provides nutrients that help the plants grow twice as fast as they normally would. And when a fish (tilapia or catfish) grows large enough to eat, it becomes a special treat for a hungry family’s table.

Family Circus currently has two 14’ x 14’ fish ponds with 600 catfish ready to harvest and 22 4’ x 4’ garden squares where they grow sweet corn, tomatoes, radishes, eggplants, carrots, cabbages, melons, peas, cucumbers, peppers, and pumpkins. As funds come in, workers hope to create more than 150 additional garden squares.

“By adding our homegrown compost to the soil after each harvest, the gardens will produce, year after year, a bountiful harvest of food to assist us in feeding the hungry—including those who come to Family Circus, where we can minister to their needs spiritually and physically,” Blatchley says. “It’s God’s gift. And what fun to see the hungry children eating! In turn, we can encourage others to learn and reproduce other gardens to feed themselves and to share.”

Gardens at ministries like Sihanoukville Children’s Home in Cambodia, Happy Horizons Children’s Ranch in the Philippines, and Chiang Rai Children’s Home in Thailand feed the hungry children in their care too. But they also teach victory over dependency. 

Sihanoukville Children’s Home is preparing a generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. Through the use of various entrepreneurial projects at the home, the children have learned to move beyond dependence and develop skills they need to create their own opportunities. It started when kids were given individual farming plots but has expanded to their raising and selling pigs, quail, fish, and other animals.

Today most of the kids are involved in entrepreneurial projects. They use the profits to buy personal items and to reinvest in new projects for the future. The programs give students the discipline and thinking skills they need, not only to survive, but to excel.

Nancy Garrison reports success in the latest endeavor at Happy Horizons Children’s Ranch: container gardening for the youngest children. Says Garrison, “Our little kids just love it—the anticipation of planting, the agony of waiting, and the thrill of the sprout! We give them credit in our campus store for snacks and small items. After the first ‘payment,’ we had no reluctant children. The next crops of tomatoes and beans were planted with great enthusiasm.”

The children learn many good things from this project, and the kitchen gets the benefit of fresh vegetables and children eager to eat them.

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