June De Wit | Staff Writer
At a young age, Mitch Rozeboom took an interest in agriculture and learned to appreciate it. As the son of Dave and Carol Rozeboom, he grew up on a farm near Boyden where agriculture isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life. He attended Dordt College and received a degree in agriculture business, graduating this spring. Soon he’ll be teaching agriculture skills to students and farmers in Ghana, Africa, and help promote food security.
Rozeboom leaves Aug. 9 for training through AgriCorps in Throckmorton, Texas, which is the home base of a fellowship program with 4-H Ghana. For the first time, Rozeboom will meet the other eight fellows serving in the same capacity. Currently, they stay connected through monthly conference calls and social media.
Following a week and a half of training, Rozeboom’s five-month fellowship in Ghana begins. He’ll work as an agriculture teacher, 4-H advisor and agricultural extension agent in a rural village. He expects to learn about the cultural differences and their classroom structure. “I think I’ve got a lot to take in, a lot to learn,” he said.
AgriCorps, a non-profit, sends young, American agricultural professionals to Ghana to help transform agriculture through education. 4-H Ghana organizes the effort in Ghana to provide opportunities for young people to develop their livelihood and life skills to become productive, contributing society members. Rozeboom hopes to help build student leadership skills through the program and teach farmers innovative ways to make money and improve their technology.
Rozeboom, who is also a 2014 Western Christian High School graduate, ventured to a warm, fun location and took one semester at a Florida college in the spring of 2017. That’s where he heard about the program. He applied for a fellowship last fall and was accepted into the program and secured the fellowship this past January.
The volunteers going to Ghana are recent agriculture graduates who won’t get paid for their work. Rozeboom said, “They pay for all my expenses and flights. Housing is provided (and) we get a living stipend.” He thought the stipend was about $250 a month. It doesn`t seem like much, but he’s been told an entire meal in Ghana costs around 23 cents, so it should cover food costs and more.
Rozeboom is not sure what kind of place he’ll live in until he gets there. “Most likely I’ll have electricity, but not running water, so I guess I`ll have an excuse to smell bad,” he joked.
Tractors are a luxury in the underdeveloped, third-world country and Rozeboom thinks it will be interesting to backpedal from modern technology because most of the work is done by hand. But, he’s ready to get his hands dirty and do some manual labor.
Rozeboom’s dad was an agricultural intern in Belize at the same age. Rozeboom said, “He has always emphasized the importance of global agricultural development. This is the reason I chose to do AgriCorps.” He also has a desire to work with food security.
Ghana has a tropical climate year ’round with a dry winter season and rainy summer seasons. “I’ll be there for planting, for the most part,” Rozeboom said, but not during harvest to see the fruits of their labor. Farming in Ghana isn’t just crops though. He expects to be around animals too, depending where he`s placed. “Through the program they do goats and pigs,” Rozeboom said.
Rozeboom currently works at Van Zee Commodities in Sioux Center and he hopes to return when his fellowship is over. “I’m trading futures agricultural commodities, kind of like risk management for farmers,” he said. When the boards close in the early afternoon, he helps his dad on the farm.
The fellowship commitment will be done in December, before Christmas. However, Rozeboom said, “I might travel to Europe for a short bit and might not be back home before Christmas.”