What We Do
With its cadre of agriculture and nutrition experts, this group acts as an advisory body to connect CHOICE with educational institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) throughout the world to synergize international development efforts.
The Institute of Self-Reliant Agriculture (ISRA) Committee is also charged with developing educational materials such as the recently published college-level textbook Feeding the Forgotten: Agricultural Development for the World’s Small-Holder Farmer. This textbook teaches basic agricultural principles to be used in the developing world. While it is available to anyone, it will be especially useful for NGOs, universities, government extension offices, and specialized trade schools throughout the world. Shortly the second printing of the book will be translated into Spanish. Other training materials for use in the field are in development and will be available in the near future.
In 2016, the ISRA Committee began reviewing the field data, creating infographics and developing progress reports for our Nepal Self Developing District Program created and implemented by our Co-Founder, Dr. James Mayfield.
Who We Are
The Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture was founded in 2009 as an outgrowth of Brigham Young University’s Ezra Taft Benson Food and Agriculture and Food Institute. The Benson Institute’s stated purpose was to raise the quality of life among the people of the world through improved nutrition and enlightened agricultural practices.
ISRA was initially established to carry on the rural efforts that were started, then discontinued, by Benson Institute in Ecuador. The decades of research and experience in working with small-scale farm families accumulated by the Benson Institute provided the basis and framework for ISRA programs.
The CHOICE ISRA Committee is composed of the following experts:
Lora Beth Brown, Ed.D.
Early in her career, Dr. Brown was a community nutrition educator in South Texas, teaching nutrition to low- income Latino families there and to migrant worker families throughout the Midwest. At Brigham Young University (1974 until her retirement as Professor Emeritus in 2015) her primary responsibility was teaching the introductory nutrition course where she encouraged thousands of undergraduate students to apply nutrition principles in their lives. She continued working internationally through her research and by mentoring college students and training nutrition outreach workers in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, Ecuador, Ghana, Mongolia, Western Samoa, and Tonga.
Dr. Brown says, "My passion is to simplify complex nutrition information into practical and feasible recommendations for consumers, including the extremely impoverished people participating with CHOICE Humanitarian.
Joel Black, Ph.D.
Joel has taught every subject at every grade level and worked as a consultant to business, churches, and schools. In 2009, he started working with the Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture writing brochures and consulting with staff in Ecuador and Peru. Joel has taken dozens of student groups on tours of 28 countries, all of them educational, many of them service oriented. He is known for his humor, even disposition, and enthusiasm for learning.
At the personal level, Joel considers himself a citizen of the world, not of any country. His heart is to help children everywhere to find success and a full life. That’s why he volunteers his time and talents to Choice Humanitarian.
Mike was raised in a rural community and learned the importance of hard work at a young age. As a young man, he became heavily involved in his father’s company manufacturing aircraft parts. Mike took this small company from 7 employees to $60 million in sales and then sold it in 1998. After the sale, he became involved with the Ezra Taft Benson Food and Agriculture Institute where he fell in love with international development work. “There is nothing more important than teaching self-reliance skills to those with little hope.” In 2009 Mike started a nonprofit organization called Feed The World to continue the work of the Benson Institute. He merged this organization with CHOICE Humanitarian in 2015. Today Mike is building a thrift store chain to help fund CHOICE programs. Mike and his wife Diane live in Enumclaw Washington and have five children and 20 grandchildren.
Mary Lee Call, Ph.D.
While living in Argentina with her family as a youth, Mary Lee was deeply touched by the circumstances of those living in extreme poverty. Many years later she worked as a language teaching consultant for the Peace Corps in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, and later for the U.S. Information Agency in Hungary, Russia, and Ukraine. Again she witnessed the daunting challenges faced by people who were smart, motivated, and hardworking yet lacked the options others took for granted. After teaching in the Linguistics Department at Brigham Young University for six years, she resigned to marry and become an instant mother to four children. In 2012 she joined the board of The Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture (ISRA), serving as chair for two years. She has also served on the board of CHOICE Humanitarian since the merger with Feed the World in April 2015.
“Being involved with CHOICE gives me the opportunity to help people in poverty--my peers in all key respects--solve challenges and achieve sustainable progress through increased knowledge, experience, and access to resources.”
Brent Goddard is Managing Director of Humanitarian Operations for Nu Skin. Nu Skin’s humanitarian programs include the Nourish the Children Initiative which is a for-profit social venture which has provided over 500 million highly nutritious meals to children in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Nu Skin’s non-profit efforts fund a school of agriculture in Malawi, Africa (SAFI) that is giving hope for self-reliance to thousands of families, provides hundreds of heart surgeries to children in China and Southeast Asia, builds schools in South Korea and supports other child-focused projects.
“Our efforts in Malawi are demonstrating the life, community, and nation-changing power of helping small-scale farmers become self-reliant. My passion is to refine, augment and multiply these results. CHOICE and Nu Skin add value to each other’s programs to help struggling rural communities succeed.”
Nicole Styler Harker
Nicole has carved out a niche in the world of NGO’s and Humanitarian causes. Based in the Washington D.C. area, Nicole is a project manager for RSR Corporation and consults on projects and specializes in communication, monitoring & evaluation, and data privacy. Nicole heads various ISRA Subcommittees including planning for the annual ISRA Symposium.
Mr. Hoer is the former President and Managing Director of Continental Grain Asia. Fluent in Chinese, he has lived and worked in China, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong for nearly 30 years--where he was responsible for 42 agri-business companies with over 12,000 employees, mainly in China, which supplied agricultural and food products to Chinese farmers, wholesale and supermarket outlets and major US restaurant chains expanding in China. He has spoken on Chinese business topics over 50 times and been mentioned in, or published, articles on investing in China in such publications as Business Week International, South China Morning Post and Harvard's The Analyst magazine. He served as a founding member of Rabobank’s Asia Advisory Council, was an advisor to the American Management Association, and a member of McDonald’s China Supplier Advisory Committee.
Prior to working for Continental Grain, Mr. Hoer worked for Schlumberger and Arthur Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) and was one of the first 17 American students to study in China in 1979. In recent years, Mr. Hoer has worked on various humanitarian projects including promoting agricultural and business ventures in rural Kenya and supplying winter clothing to porters in Tanzania who climb Kilimanjaro.
William J. Loughmiller
Bill has owned and managed several agricultural businesses beginning with a large diversified irrigated farm where he has grown crops of wheat, barley, beans, potatoes, sugar beets, corn and peas along with beef cattle, dairy cattle, and swine since 1967. Also, he has experience in processing onions, potatoes, and swine. Having managed agricultural projects for Monsanto, ConAgra and USAID gave him 22 years of international experience. He has been active in many civic, political and professional organizations. In his career, he has been involved with a variety of international demonstration and community development agricultural projects to end extreme poverty. These include: 1992, Idaho’s Humanitarian Gesture to the Former Soviet Union; 1994, USAID Russian Food Processors Training, College of Southern Idaho; 1995, UAAID Georgian and Russian Potato Seed Scientist Tour; 1995-1997, USAID Monsanto Georgian Potato Seed Project; 1998-2001, ConAgra Potato Production, Turkey; 2001, USDA Potato Seed Project Lebanon; 2001, TDA Project Evaluations Nigeria; 2001, World Bank Project Evaluation, China; 2006-2009, Romanian Farm Project; 2006, TDA Food and Agricultural Processor Evaluations, Serbia; 2010, TDA African Idaho Agricultural and Irrigation Tour; 2012, Mongolian Agricultural Evaluation; 2013-2015, African USA Trade Mission.
James B. Mayfield, Ph.D.
Dr. Mayfield is the co-founder of CHOICE Humanitarian. He is professor emeritus of Political Science and the Middle East Studies at the University of Utah. In his 50+ year career, he has also worked as a research and training consultant for USAID, UNDP, CANIDA, World Bank and numerous consulting firms in 27 countries. His specialty is Local Government Reform in less developed countries, especially in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In 2004 and 2005, Jim spent over a year in Iraq as the Director of Local Government Reform helping to introduce democracy into the provinces, cities, towns, districts and villages in South Central Iraq. Jim is either sole author or co-author of 24 scholarly articles, publications and books covering a wide range of Political Science topics, especially in the Middle East.
When Jim and his wife Rosalind are not traveling, writing and lecturing or visiting with their 11 children, 56 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren, he is studying foreign cultures or malacology (Sea Shells), enjoying water or snow skiing, mountain climbing (he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro when he was 65), or reading and researching the causes and solutions to extreme poverty.
Dr. Mayfield continues to work on improving the efficiencies and business models for ending extreme poverty.
In 2001 through 2007 and again in 2010 to the present is the owner/manager of diversified livestock operation at Patten Farms, Inc. This operation produces over 13,000 weaner pigs per year as well as cow-calf, sheep, and row crop operations. David was the General Manager of Prairie Home Cooperative in Prairie Home, Missouri from 2007 through 2010. While serving in this capacity, he modernized grain operations by implementing hedging programs.
From 1999 to 2001 David was a Beef Marketing Specialist for the Missouri Department of Agriculture. He disseminated information to individuals and producer groups and developed promotional materials. Previously he served as a county extension agent, nutritionist, feed ingredient purchasing agent and did financial services sales.
Besides being a fluent Spanish speaker, he is a licensed USDA poultry and egg grader. He is active in community affairs having served in the Tipton RVI School board. He has a personal mission of eliminating extreme poverty and has been part of this committee since 2014.
Alan was educated at both the University of Utah in Media Production and Brigham Young University in Business. He served as Director of Operations and Chief Technical Officer and a member of the board of directors for Feed The World until it merged with CHOICE Humanitarian in 2015. Alan is expert in graphic and website design and has a breadth of experience in marketing, public relations and social media. He has developed training programs, and was instrumental in the development and layout of the textbook “Feeding the Forgotten” for Feed the World now Choice Humanitarian.
Alan has traveled the world filming for Feed The World and produced various types of videos including documentaries, client testimonials, and commercials. As the owner of his own video production company, he provides full service end-to-end commercial video production including commercials, short films, magazines, training programs as well as online and offline web content in both English and Spanish winning several industry awards. Alan has devoted his career to non-profit foundation acting as a bilingual representative, teacher, business manager, and board member.
Raised on a small family farm in northern Utah, Robert Stirling gained a passion for agriculture as a high school student heavily involved in FFA (Future Farmers of America), and this guided his educational and professional pursuits. While living in California, he saw the plight of many migrant workers in the fields and from this, he developed a desire to work with the humble people of this earth. He worked extensively with the Ezra Taft Benson Food and Agriculture Institute and worked on small-scale agricultural projects in Bolivia and Peru in addition to his research in Ecuador for his master's thesis. In 2011, Bob served as a volunteer with the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program in Kenya to develop new markets for various meat products. Bob has worked in the meat and livestock industry since 1996, and he currently works for Rocky Mountain Land & Cattle and Intermountain Bison in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Bob and his wife Cheryl live on a small farm with their four children in Rigby, Idaho.
James Thomas, Ph.D.
Dr. James Thomas is Professor Emeritus of Agriculture and International Development at Utah State University. He has served in many administrative capacities at USU including Associate Dean of Agriculture, Department Head Plant Science, Director of International Programs (Global Engagement).
As part of his assignment in International Agriculture from USU, he worked a total of 16 years in six different countries as an agriculture specialist, educator, and administrator. He has extensive experience in small-scale agriculture for the developing world.
He was a faculty member and Senior Adviser to the President of the Arab American University in Jenin, West Bank during its beginning years. He also served as the Director of Research for USDA's Regional Research Office in New Delhi, India for three years.
" I have learned that addressing the needs of the poorest of the poor (single female farmers) is the best way to change the misery of poverty that so many of the world's poorest experience. It is why I choose to help these people with technology, education, and affordable inputs through organizations like Choice Humanitarian International."
Steven joins the ISRA Committee as one of the CHOICE Humanitarian volunteers. A retired information technologist and former psychologist, he brings project management, business management as well as technology thinking to the committee. He has a wealth of executive and management experience having founded or help lay the foundation for a number of high-tech startup companies. As a technologist, he has designed IC Chips, specialized circuit boards for copy protection and encryption, as well as low-level programming and database programming. He has developed and managed a digital forensics department as well as been a system analyst for a variety of governmental agencies including City Attorneys, Prosecutors, Airport, Community and Economic Development, and arts Council.
Mojtaba Zaifnejad, Ph.D.
Dr. Mojtaba Zaifnejad is a private crop consultant assisting clients in diagnosing crop production issues in the areas of nutrient deficiency, soil fertility, and pest management. He has an extensive experience in crop research in conventional and organic farming systems. During his university and ag-industry careers, he worked over four years in soil and plant analysis laboratories at Brigham Young University and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He worked in greenhouses for over five years and did commercial field crop production for over six years. He is experienced in the formulation of conventional liquid fertilizers, and liquid organic compost tea and extract. He has worked in California and West Virginia.
During his master’s degree, he studied fall cutting management of alfalfa and its relation to carbohydrate level, yield, and stand persistence. For his doctorate degree, he researched aluminum toxicity and water deficit effects on leaf photosynthesis and stomatal conductance, growth traits, proline, organic acids, and mineral nutrients in sorghum. After the completion of his doctorate degree, he continued his research career at the USDA-ARS research laboratory in Beckley, West Virginia in cooperation with Virginia Tech University. At that time he studied and published scientific manuscripts on the effects of coal combustion by-products on plants growth and soil chemicals. Some of his publications are found in Journal of Plant Physiology and Crop Science.
Lonny Ward - Staff Liasion
Lonny Ward has worked tirelessly since 2009 to help poverty-stricken people in third world countries create prosperity for themselves and their families. He has over 20 years of experience in agribusiness management, including dairy, swine, sheep, horses, goats, and chickens, as well as farm products such as small grains, hay, almonds, and pistachios. He has extensive experience with bovine embryo transfer and embryo sexing. Lonny is currently the Mayor of the City of Genola Utah, where he runs an independent consulting business and writes about his international travels on his blog, www.ethiopiancowboy.blogspot.com. He is passionate about bringing together the resources of the prosperous world and the needs of the developing world into a synergistic network focused on individuals helping individuals. Lonny now serves as Director of Field Operations for Choice Humanitarian.