Tim Ross

Year Joined MKLM: 2016
Country: El Salvador
City: Candelaria de Cuscatlán
Focus: Sustainable Development, Education
Project(s): Parish Agricultural Ministry, Parish School Garden Project
People Served: 20 farming families and 200 children

Project Goal(s): Accompany farmers as they learn and implement sustainable agriculture techniques, introduce and teach children all-organic agriculture and care of the environment

Current Ministry:

In addition to accompanying farmers in their daily fieldwork, Tim helps to maintain two community gardens in the municipality of Candelaria three days a week, as well as a demonstration garden in the parochial school one day a week. These gardens are meant to provide those who volunteer their labor with supplemental food, but more importantly to demonstrate the viability of sustainable agriculture techniques as opposed to more expensive, environmentally unsound use of agro-chemicals. In the parochial garden, the majority of the labor is performed by children attending the school, and the harvest is immediately put to use in preparing a nutritious midday snack for the student population.

Tim also participates in an ongoing project to dig household fish ponds for members of the Church agricultural ministry, in order to take advantage of a government program that provides free tilapia minnows. As of now, three ponds have been completed and are currently in production, containing up to 1,000 tilapia each. Once the fish mature of the course of six months, they will provide a good source of protein, as well as additional income, as the popular fish can be sold for $2 per pound. Future aspects of this project include planting crops that can be converted into fish food to offset the cost of concentrated food.

Living in a sub-tropical environment, Salvadorans have access to a huge variety of unique plant life. Yet many of these plants are woefully under-utilized. They could be sources of protein and nutrients for direct consumption or as feed for animals, or used in soil conservation techniques such as creating barriers against erosion. A longer-term goal of this ministry, therefore, is to foster the creativity and ancestral knowledge of small-holder farmers in using the natural resources already available to them to improve their yields, their land, and their diet.

Exploring the botanical knowledge passed down from parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents usually results in the sharing of stories. Memories both dear and difficult are brought out like old treasures, and fascinating glimpses of a former world brings both laughter and tears. A crippled old man and his hard working wife, weighed down by the constant misfortunes of poverty, can still laugh about how he first wooed the young coffee picker by singing to her as he passed in his ox-drawn wagon. Meanwhile, a father of six can’t hide his emotions as he shows battle scars from the civil war, and describes how he chose to farm in search of a more peaceful life.

Personal Data:

Tim is from Lake Orion, MI. He has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Missouri, Columbia. During school, he was active in the St. Thomas More Newman Center, where he volunteered in the choir and served on the board of the Catholic Student Association as the Social Justice Director in 2012. Tim has worked in customer service, as a night custodian, a forklift operator, and a credit union teller. He volunteered short term in China visiting orphans and the elderly, and in El Salvador on a delegation that established a sister relationship between the Columbia Newman Center and a parish in El Puerto de La Libertad.

Inspired by his experiences in La Libertad, Tim sought out a way to return to El Salvador after finishing his studies, and he was referred to Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

Tim commented, “Living and working in another country is a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. My decision to study agriculture was solely motivated by the hope that I could somehow benefit a farming community. I am proud to work alongside Salvadorans, who have welcomed me into their lives and taught me so much.”