Breaking the archetype of a Mexican farmer: Ejido Benito Juarez Leyes de Reforma
By Travis Chase
Originally posted at the Discovery Organics Blog
The following blog was written by Travis Chase from Fair Trade Vancouver, who was one of 10 participants selected for an internship to farm in Northern Mexico at the Ejido Benito Juarez Leyes de Reforma.
The day of a typical farmer in northern Mexico usually fulfills itself through two scenarios:
1. Wake up at dawn and travel long distances in search of temporary work (the pay is minimal and some days there may be no work at all)
2. Wake up at 2am in order to cross the border into the USA. Work an 8 hour day in the states and return home at 8pm (the pay is better, however being out of the home for 18 hours a day must be physically and mentally destructive)
Both of these scenarios are less than ideal, but there are better options emerging for the farmers of northern Mexico. I spent two weeks working at Ejido Leyes de Reforma (LDR), which is one of these options. LDR is small communally owned farming village in the Mexican state of Sonora. They produce organic crops and they are striving towards fair trade certification. What makes LDR special is that the people who work the land, own the land. That means there is no need to travel long distances because there is stable work right in their backyards. In addition more profits are seen by the farmers because they are the owners of the land that they are working. Thanks to investment by Baja organics and discovery organics, LDR has been able to develop its land and make this whole operation possible.
The farm is still not large enough to provide jobs for the entire community; however with continued support of this project and increased consumer awareness of the benefits of buying their food from socially responsible farms, this Ejido could soon be completely self-reliant.
So that was some background information on the Ejido. Now, for my personal experience in Mexico. I was on the farm for 2 weeks with Mike from discovery organics.
The first few days, I will admit, were a little rough, mostly because of the heat which was approaching the mid 30’s by 10 am and peaking at about 43 degrees during the day. My useless student body which has seen fitter days didn’t help me out either. But I struggled through and it got better. I began to make friends with my fellow farmers. Then, I began to speak my broken Spanish with confidence and was even able to crack a few jokes with my compañeros. I performed a variety of tasks while on the farm from harvesting beets to fence and irrigation maintenance.
However, the most interesting task I participated in was the harvesting and processing of wheat to get the grains out (all by hand). This happens in 3 stages,
1. Harvesting the wheat with a machete.
2. Threshing the wheat by stepping on it to remove the grain from the chaff.
3. Finally wait for a gust of wind and throw the remains up in the air so the wind can take the lighter chaff away while letting the grains fall back to the mat.
As one could imagine this is a labour intensive and time consuming process which has made me look at every bag of flour or loaf of bread in a new way.
The work done in LDR is hard, honest work and it will always be that way. However, the lifestyle does not have to be hard. In the future it would be great to see steady jobs for the whole village, the school stocked with new books and a local medical clinic as well. This future will take some time, but it is slowly being realized as consumers are continuously becoming more educated on where their food comes from and how it is produced. This is an exciting time in LDR and there is only room to grow.