Here at ONE we love to celebrate change-makers. We are inspired by those around the globe who are doing something, big or small, that is positively impacting their communities, their countries, or the world. Gracie Pfaff is one of those people—she is a true ONEderWoman. Gracie, at just 12 years old, founded Harvest107 in 2013, a non-profit that creates fresh and sustainable food sources for low-income communities. While the organization began in Franklin, TN, it has spread its roots all the way to Haiti, where they are currently focused, and will expand to other cities in the US later this year. Gracie, now 13, founded Harvest107 on the belief that food is a right, not a privilege, and that every person on this planet deserves access to safe, nutritious food every day. The Pfaff family is so dedicated to this cause that they moved to Haiti to work on micro-farm projects there.
Inspired by her story, I interviewed Gracie and her mother, Rhiana, about Harvest107, their move to Haiti, and their visions for the future.
What inspired you to start this organization?
In 2013, I read about a small family farm that was failing due to lack of modern farming techniques. Someone came to their village and taught new ways to farm. Because of these new practices, the family was able to live together, have enough to eat, and earn a living.
I was moved because one person was able to help a family sustain themselves. I began to research hunger and malnourishment and discovered that women and children are most at-risk; and that small farms could be the key to food security. I couldn’t bear the thought that kids like me were hungry, and decided I had to help. So, I started Harvest107 to teach sustainable agriculture in food insecure communities.
Why did you decide to move the entire family to Haiti?
The move to Haiti happened sort of organically. We had spent time in Haiti working at an orphanage. The kids ate mostly bread, rice and beans with very little (if any) vegetables. We talked with them about our projects in the States and they were interested in us doing something similar there, but surround by mostly concrete, there were obvious restrictions. So, we went back to Haiti and created the rooftop farm at that orphanage and trained someone on site to care for it.
After coming back to the States, we felt like our work in Haiti wasn’t complete. When we sat down to discuss issues and goals, one of our biggest priorities was being invited into communities, not just showing up and saying “here we are!” We knew that to better equip and empower people we should live among them. It hasn’t come without sacrifice, but it is worth it.
What is it like to live in Haiti and meet the people impacted by your program there? How is it different from the projects in the U.S.?
Ever since we first visited Haiti, I wanted to live there – the Haitian people’s passion and strength captured my heart. It is an honor to be able to live amongst the people and to get to know the people so I can better understand their needs. I am so thankful that I have this opportunity to start these projects alongside them.
Each project is different in some way, no matter where it is, because they are catered to the people and their needs. I can say that I find the Haitian people to be more present than Americans – they don’t hurry things along, they just live in that moment.
Where do you see Harvest107 going in the future?
My original dream for Harvest107 was to go to Africa. I was only twelve, so my family encouraged me to start locally, and now we’re working in Haiti. However, I envision projects in Africa within the next few years. Ultimately, the goal is to have many projects all over the world helping women and children self-sustain.
What is the most important thing you have learned so far from Harvest107?
The most important thing I have learned is that you’re never too young to make a difference. Age doesn’t define how much you can do. One person cannot change the entire world in their lifetime, but they can make an impact.
Do you have a particular story of a women or child involved in the program that you would like to share?
There is a little boy named Jonathan, we call him Johnny Pepper. He was found in a pile of garbage on a street near the orphanage where we work. His body was weak from exhaustion and hunger, susceptible to illness and disease. His organs were failing, he was dying from starvation and malnutrition. He had been bounced from hospital to hospital because no one had the supplies to help him. After 10 days, the orphanage was called to pick him up and they placed him in my mom’s arms. We called everyone we knew and finally located a malnutrition clinic about two hours away. There was little mass left to his body, yet he somehow seemed full of hope. As we said goodbye [to him at the clinic], we were told he likely wouldn’t make it through the night. He weighed barely 10 pounds.
Today, he is healthy and thriving. And we know that he is getting the nutrients that a growing baby needs because of the food growing just above his crib.
Johnny Pepper is the reason we do what we do. His mother is the reason we do what we do. I can only imagine how she must have felt not being able to feed her son. The thought of that still breaks my heart. We want to prevent that from happening to mothers and children around the world. Their story still inspires me every, single, day.