Michael and Mary McLaughlin, Founders of Trees That Feed Foundation
Trees That Feed Foundation (TTFF) is a non-profit organisation based in the United States with a mission to plant fruit trees to feed people while creating meaningful jobs and benefiting the environment.
Founders, Mary and Michael McLaughlin who live in Chicago, founded TTFF in 2008. They believe that tree crops are the answer to tackling food insecurity around the world. They also restore ecological balance to the land, capture carbon dioxide from the air, and create habitats for small animals.
TTFF operates in eighteen countries in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia and has supplied over 210,000 trees worldwide. They support programs that enhance the value of fruit trees, including helping startup businesses, supplying food processing equipment, operating school feeding programs, and education and practical research projects.
Their work started in their home country, Jamaica, after signing an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture. They introduced five valuable new cultivars of breadfruit to Jamaica, starting with a shipment of seventy-two trees planted in test plots at the Orange River Research Station. To date, they have funded over 120,000 fruit trees in Jamaica. That partnership continues today, along with many others.
Haiti was the second country for TTFF where they partnered with many reforestation organisations. TTFF supplies the fruit trees while their partners provide other plantings. In some cases, the trees are intermingled with timber trees t to create mixed forests. In other cases, large trees, shrubs and under-story ground crops form agroforests.
Barbados was next. TTFF was fortunate to find strong advocates in Sandra Myers and Barney Gibbs. Working together, they planted breadfruit trees and assisted in the introduction of new mango varieties. TTFF also works in partnership programs in the Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
TTFF has grown and expanded over the years. Now, they donate not only breadfruit trees but also many other varieties of fruit trees. The foundation is committed to the model of agroforestry or inter-cropping where fruit trees are planted in a mixed system of crops and an assortment of fruit trees. Where possible, they encourage organic practices.
TTFF believes that creating a market for the fruit is essential as farmers who gain revenue from the fruit will plant more trees and manage existing trees well.
Everyone wants free trees but, not everyone has the skill and perseverance to care for them until their productive maturity. So TTFF works directly with individuals and groups to educate them on good tree management. Mary and Mike recently produced short teaching videos on proper tree care including planting, composting and proper pruning techniques with farmers via WhatsApp.
TTFF is working with the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance (CariPhilAlliance) headquartered in Jamaica on the ambitious Caribbean Tree Planting Project (CTPP) to plant one million trees across the Caribbean by mid-2021. TTFF committed to supplying 20,000 fruit trees. Already that number has been exceeded! So far, over 27,000 trees were provided and work continues, despite the difficulties of COVID.
“TTFF is elated with the CTPP initiative as our work is complementary. We both want to plant millions of fruit trees! Along with the CTPP youth ambassadors program, young people will also function as educators, tree planters, and champions for tree planting at the local level.” says Mary McLaughlin.
For more articles on sustainability and social engagement in the Caribbean, read our latest issue of ApaNa Magazine.
Issue 4 provides a range of technical articles covering the environment, climate change and renewable energy, corporate giving and features nonprofit organisations including Nature Fun Ranch in Barbados, Ocean Heroes Network in the Cayman Islands, Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance in the Caribbean region.