With each passing day and event, we are made aware of how important our visit is to SAGARPA and the Mexican government. We have been welcomed at both events, with an opening ceremony which includes gracious comments from local SAGARPA representatives, government officials and university officials, thanking us for our visit to Mexico and to their university in particular. The attendees include farmers, processors, and producers, many of whom, we were told drove upwards of five hours to attend our event. Their attendance was very purposeful, for sure. And they came with their passion. Everyone we spoke with, including the men who were there in support of this initiative, were passionate about their work and their reason to be at our workshop.
The goals of our presentation today:
- Share our practices, both for the work that Midwest Dairy does on behalf of our farmers to help be a catalyst for dairy sales, and for the work of dairy farmers and the passion they have for their faith, their families, and their farms. deb does an amazing presentation of providing a glimpse of her life through this lens. Her story was especially meaningful to the women in attendance. They are strong in faith and the Mexican people have a strong bond with their families. And the passion for their farms is a common thread that crosses all borders.
- Encourage and support women in agriculture in Mexico
- Provide recommendations for how they might grow dairy product consumption in Mexico, which is currently about half of what the U.S. consumes on a per person basis (roughly 600+ lbs).
This day in Gaudalajara was an emotional day and I think I will be forever changed as a result. We held two sessions so that attendees could attend two out of the three sectors represented (dairy, soybean, organic). The first session was primarily made up of women, with two men in attendance, one was a producer of a caramel type sauce made with burnt milk and a splash of tequila (yes, I am bringing home a sample) and the other man in attendance was from SAGARPA. When deb (our Minnesota dairy farmer) and I completed the first session, there were two women who wanted to contribute their thoughts to the event; one was a dairy farmer with a special kind of breed of cow (sorry to my dairy farmer friends who are curious about the breed of cow, it was one we had never heard of before, but we believe she said it was common in Italy). This woman said she produces Italian cheese with the milk from this cow. She also has chickens and pigs and has a restaurant where she serves her products. The other woman was younger; she doesn’t yet have a farm, or any cows, but it is her dream. We are hoping that she will participate in the exchange with Minnesota that will be taking place next year. Both women spoke with such passion, it was hard not to have goose bumps, which were then soon followed by tears. Despite the challenges they have in production, bringing their product to market, and economic difficulties, these women were determined to fulfill their dreams. They spoke passionately to all the women in the room to reach for their dreams and to not let the negative people and their thoughts deter them. Their comments were amazing and I have such admiration for them. They were motivational and inspiring. When this session ended, deb and I felt like rock stars. The women flocked to the front of the room, all asking to have their photos taken with us. It was just incredible. Most of them didn’t speak English, so we had to find a few people who could translate for us, but even before the translation started, it was evident in their eyes and in the passion in the words they spoke, and the number of times we heard “Gracias”, that they were so incredibly thankful for the presentations we shared with them. I can’t tell you how gratifying and humbling these moments were for me.
Our SAGARPA host, Bernardo, spoke at the closing session and concluded with these final thoughts: “Our two countries are similar, we have the same goals: to provide for the welfare of our families and for the development of our country.” Bernardo is so right, and I have experienced this whenever I have traveled outside of the U.S. People everywhere are more alike than different; we all love our families and work every day to help provide for them.