Farmer’s Daughter Helps Feed Thousands

Heather Peck Stahl

Named one of Teen People’s “20 Teens Who Will Change the World,” Lindsey Williams of St. Joseph, Missouri, developed an irrigation system that produced more vegetables than she could manage. She quickly turned her new invention into a ministry, donating some 46,000 pounds of homegrown vegetables to the hungry.

Lindsey on TractorWhen Lindsey Williams was 11, she decided to test the effects of different fertilizers on vegetables for her required seventh-grade science fair. Inspired by her father, a farmer, Lindsey gave the vegetables she grew to her church and to a local nursing home.

Lindsey’s passion for farming continued. While in high school, she developed a transverse irrigation system that won “Best Invention” at the Saint Louis Science Symposium. Her invention plants vegetables on their sides on a platform a few inches above the ground to prevent rotting. It also includes a device that drips water into each individual plant, saving water and helping the plants to absorb more nutrients. As a result, her small-scale farm generates two and a half times as many vegetables as traditional methods.

Lindsey’s invention surpassed her expectations. She harvested more tomatoes, beans, corn, and other vegetables than her church and nearby nursing home could use. So, with the help of her father, she began delivering the produce to local food banks.

Lindsey Veggie Truck Ftr“I had read in the newspaper how donations to food pantries were down,” she says. “I also learned that there were food shortages in the region due to severe drought. So it was easy to decide to donate our surplus vegetables rather than sell them for profit.” Lindsey was not satisfied with just one good year of donations, however, and has continued her farming ministry to this day, with each year producing more crops than the previous one.

What Keeps Her Going?

Numerous organizations and individuals have recognized Lindsey’s work. Besides being featured in Teen People and on Oprah, she has met former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. She was one of 10 recipients of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes and was named one of five youth volunteers in America by Prudential Financial. She was awarded “Best Invention” by the Army and won the Hubert Hoover Foundation award in Iowa for Women in Engineering.

Lindsey Corn ygp9521While all these accolades are nice, Lindsey says, “I get the most satisfaction from the people who come to the food pantries to take home my vegetables.” She continues, “I remember delivering tomatoes with my dad to a food pantry. I saw an older woman with her grandson looking for food. The little boy stared at me and then at the tomatoes. He asked if the tomatoes were real and if he could have one. When I told him that he could take several of them home, his face lit up. I couldn’t keep from crying at the sight of his excitement. My heart was full.”

Helping People Help Themselves

Lindsey Plants ygp9524Lindsey, a chemistry major in college, uses leftover vegetables to make seeds to grow future plants for her farm and to donate to people who frequent the food banks. She says, “I want to help people help themselves; that way, they won’t have to rely on hand-outs and will be able to get their own vegetables without having to leave home.” Lindsey and her father plan to make a simple “how-to” pamphlet to accompany the donated seeds.

Lindsey is also teaching her farming techniques to youth groups who want to serve the disadvantaged in their communities. In addition, her college newspaper staff is helping her to develop a website that will spread her inventions around the globe.


Dig Deeper

Lindsey sometimes feels overwhelmed by the magnitude of the work but says she has an unspoken drive never to give up. She feels called to feed the hungry.

Read Matthew 25:35 and Isaiah 58:6–7. How is God calling you to help those who are hungry? Explore the opportunities to feed the hungry in your community, and challenge yourself to participate in one of them for at least three months. Or follow Lindsey’s example and create your own!

Heather Peck Stahl , a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee, hopes her three children will find individual ways to help the hungry throughout their lives.

—from devozine (November/December 2006). Copyright © 2006 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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