As many of you know; our daughter Gillian, became engaged to and married Esteban Garcia, the son of one of our long time Mexican employees, Adrian Garcia. Adrian is likely the best human being I have ever met, bar nothing. It is precisely that goodness that led us to go through the red tape of bringing his oldest son to Canada to work along side his father. When Esteban arrived we were in the middle of the first Covid lockdown and had several, late teen, ladies staying with us at the farm house to help get the farm work done. Let’s just say that the young ladies took notice when they first met him and a few months later Gillian and Esteban began dating. The rest, as they say, is history. Suzanne and I are due to become grandparents in June. Those Mexican guys don’t mess around! ;-)
Gillian and Teban have gone to Mexico to be with his family for the winter months and so, Suzanne and I did the unthinkable during Covid; traveled to Mexico on December 20th to spend Christmas with his family and returned to Canada Tuesday evening…..and, Oh boy!, I think I want to go back to Mexico!
Why is it that in Mexico it takes only six hours to get results from the top grade Covid test and in Canada it takes 3 full days? I’m locked down in my house for no good reason. I mean, except for fever, chills, body aches, trouble breathing and a horrible cough; I’m absolutely fine!!! If that joke offended you in any way you need to take a couple steps back and pull your head out of our first world safety epidemic. And I am dead serious about that. I’m not going to talk about that now but we need to ask ourselves some very hard questions about where our society is going and whether we are going to just let it happen.
So, Mexico. A much needed breath of fresh air. Over the years I have had the privilege of traveling to a number of ‘poor’ countries and I always have the same irksome feeling upon returning home. We, in Canada, have it all….but we don’t….we throw it all away. It first really struck me upon returning from three weeks in Peru. We had seen plenty of poverty, we even saw kids with leprosy (heart breaking, tourists aren’t meant to see that but we have a habit of getting to places not made for tourists), we were even lucky enough to spend a few hours with a family, completely off the tourist trail, who would be classified as extremely poor by Canadian standards. On the way home from the airport the news came on. The top story; a battle over whether people should be allowed to keep a chicken or two in their back yard. Obviously we are running out of important things to argue about.
Having also visited many ‘wealthy’ countries there is something that stands out. It seems that overall, people in the poorer countries are happier than those in wealthy countries. And so my brain, that never stops spinning, searches for the reason why. Two things strike me. First; they don’t have all the stuff to worry about that we have. Second, they have much more day to day freedom than we have (that’s not to say that maybe a few more, well thought out, regulations would be a bad idea; I’ve seen a lot of plastic and garbage being burned; and the smog that goes with it).
Esteban and his family live in a small ‘ranch’ (they call a very small town a ranch; their ranch has maybe 300 inhabitants) about 50km outside of Durango city; Narco territory. The wild west? A bit. There are a lot of corrupt police in Mexico so in Narco territory the Narcos mostly maintain order. They drive through town regularly and we witnessed them fire their guns into the air repeatedly at an outdoor party and at midnight new years eve to flex their muscles and let everyone know who is in charge. But if you don’t mess with them they don’t mess with you. All good.
Now here’s something interesting; a few minutes after ringing in the new year I was headed outside to light off a few more fireworks but I was quickly ushered back in. Apparently what goes up must come down. Everyone stays inside for about 20 minutes or at least until a few minutes after they hear the last gunshot. It’s not uncommon to hear the bullets hitting the roof on the way back down and if you get hit by one it could be fatal. This unwitting Gringo tourist never thought of that.
Family is central to everything for rural Mexicans. Gillian and Teban are staying with his parents, Adrian and Paloma Garcia, and his brothers, Pablo (19), Samuel (pronounced ‘Samway’, 11) and Josue (pronounced ‘hosway’, 7). I was introduced to numerous uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins who treated us like family.
Adrian and Pablo are scheduled to land in Halifax in the middle of the snowstorm this weekend and will be working at Elmridge until the end of June and returning to Mexico. We need a crew of Mexicans all winter now because no Canadians are willing to lower themselves to do the work. Paloma, Samuel and Josue are coming in June when the baby is due so the whole family will be here. I think that’s really awesome! It has always bothered me that these men from Mexico and Jamaicas have to be away from their families for up to 8 months at a time and I’ve dreamed of being able to bring families in for a couple weeks half way through and give each guy a paid holiday in Canada to be with his family. Unfortunately finances don’t allow and I would be very surprised if our bureaucrats would let it happen anyway for fear of them staying in Canada. Believe me when I say they would be a very valuable addition to our society. Although, I don’t know why they would want to stay here anyway. They certainly aren’t as monetarily wealthy as us but they are living proof that money isn’t everything.
The Garcia family own about 80 acres of fields which they are presently renting out so they can spend time making money in Canada. As an agrologist I immediately see many things that could be improved in their community and with their farming to make the whole community more prosperous. Most of the fields are planted to edible beans (think baked beans) every year. That’s the only crop grown. No crop rotation. No fertilizer. Full conventional tillage. And all of then bean ‘straw’ is removed as cattle and horse feed every year. That’s an absolutely punishing regime for the soils. They only farm from May to October because that is when the rains come. From December to April the temperature is actually more conducive to growing many crops and it’s wall to wall sunshine every day. But without irrigation nothing can be grown. Some farmers used to drill wells for irrigation but the water table has been depleted and wells sit abandoned. And it’s no wonder; every acre of land that isn’t tilled is grazed, so when the rain does come the majority of the water runs off in rivers taking some soil with it and nothing sinks into the aquifer. I have yet to get my hands on the climate data but my feeling is that there is enough rain, it just isn’t going into the ground like it used to.
So, my unstoppable brain starts spinning again; this time in conjunction with Esteban. His two years in Canada has him thinking too. Together we are scheming about what we can do to benefit his immediate and extended family and his community as well. I’m a sucker for getting myself into more work and complication so; here we go again! Stay tuned.
Here’s to 2022. Surely it has got to be better than 2021. Farmers have always been known to assume that ‘next year will be better’ and it amuses me that the rest of society now knows a little bit of where we are coming from.
To ensure that this is indeed the year that we, at Elmridge, get rich;
Keep eating your veggies!!