Wow, today we got down to business. The morning started with a round table with the Undersecretary of SAGARPA for Mexico, Mely Romero, and our group representing the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and women in agriculture in Minnesota. Mely is very impressive and most notably, she is the first female Undersecretary for SAGARPA. We discussed our objectives of the Memorandum of Understanding between SAGARPA and the state of Minnesota. Those objectives have 3 pillars:
- Foster international cooperation
- Strengthening markets between the two countries
- Discuss global agriculture issues
- impacts of climate change
- food safety concerns
- consumer trends that impact agriculture
Following this round table, we attended a press conference held to announce our arrival and our road show to three universities in Puebla, Guadalajara, and Chiapas. There were nearly 100 people in the room, including many dignitaries with SAGARPA. Also attending was Lloyd Harbert, the Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs for the USDA.
One thing that was very clear in these meetings today is that this MOU to empower women in agriculture is a very big deal to the representatives from SAGPARA. Minnesota is the only state with which they have this type of relationship.
At lunch, I had the opportunity to ask our host, SAGARPA Bernardo, about the consumer trends in Mexico impacting food production and consumption. He listed the following:
- Putting affordable food on the table
- Child labor
- Pesticide use
- Greenhouse gas emissions / carbon footprint
- Organic food availability
- Growth of farmer’s markets
- Water use and overall sustainability in food production
- Animal care
These are many of the same trends impacting consumers in the U.S. When asked what communication methods companies are using to inform consumers about their efforts in these areas, he replied that company websites and social media are the primary vehicles.
There are two things about the Mexican people that have really stood out for our group. First it is their friendliness. We noted this with both the people with whom we were meeting and also just random strangers we encountered in the hotel or restaurants. Everyone is very courteous…..well beyond what we call “Minnesota Nice” at home. And also we noted their ability to “turn on / turn off” at the appropriate times. What I mean, is that when it is time for work, they work. When it is time to relax, they relax. And in going about their business, they have a calm about them, we all noticed this attitude and we were all envious about their ability to be so laid back. They do not rush their day nor their personal encounters with people. Socializing time is only for socializing.
After our meetings today, we headed to Puebla, where we will hold meetings at the University there. It was a two hour drive that included a very steep, long climb, taking us up at least another 1000’ from the 7500’ altitude in Mexico City. Once we arrived in Puebla, we leveled out at about 7000’. We haven’t noted any challenges with the altitude, but we are drinking lots of water to ensure we don’t have any issues. We hoard bottles of water whenever they are available. As you know, you don’t drink the tap water in Mexico, even the Mexicans told us that. Puebla is a very old city in Mexico and our hosts treated us with a tour of the city square and dinner on a terrace overlooking the beautiful Cathedral. Puebla is very beautiful and once again, despite a myriad of people everywhere, the attitude was very relaxed. The population of Puebla is approximately 8 million. For comparison Mexico City is 22 million! That includes 10 million in the city, and 12 million in the surrounding area. The Minneapolis-St. Paul seven county area has a population of approximately 4 million!