“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is a success.” -Henry Ford
This quote surfaced today in a post I saw from Forbes magazine. It seemed very appropriate as a theme for our trip.
While here in Tuxtla Gutierrez, deb and I received word that the Minnesota Farm Network wanted to do an interview with us to learn more about our trip and purpose for being here. The interviewer asked me a question wondering why women from Minnesota would be in Mexico helping women farmers bring their products to market. I shared that we are here to help foster international collaboration; help grow markets in both directions; and that by discussing and sharing best practices, we can help blur the borders between the countries and help the women farmers in Mexico, which therefore helps to grow the entire dairy category everywhere. We can accomplish more by working together than against each other.
Very sadly the events of our trip came to a conclusion on day 6 with our last two presentations being made at the University of Science and Arts in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico. As at the previous two locations, we had a good turnout of farmers to hear the presentations on dairy, soybean and organic farming. It still amazes our group how appreciative everyone is about our visit here. And we still can’t get over the warmth and courtesy of the Mexican people. If any one of us so much drops a piece of paper there are two people reaching to pick it up before we can even move in that direction; doors are held open; despite the constant traffic jams, no one beeps their car horns; no one seems to get upset; as mothers, we commented we never saw a child having a “meltdown”; people help you out of buses; no one raises their voice; flight attendants actually encourage you to push the call button for extra coffee; waiters pull out chairs for you to sit down; and on and on it goes. I felt as if I had stepped backward in time when such courtesies were a part of our daily life too.
We made two presentations at Tuxtla and received many questions regarding the work of the dairy checkoff and also life on deb’s farm. Much of the infrastructure which we take for granted to get milk from the farm and into the market, is lacking in Mexico. SAGARPA has grants available for farmers, but the lack of infrastructure can make things difficult. And despite women making up a large percentage of the farm owners, they are often not treated fairly in the marketplace by their customers who are selling their products to the consumer.
Our SAGARPA host Bernardo and his staff, treated us to a visit to the center of the town before heading back to our hotel for the night. What a treat this was. Again, I felt as if I had stepped back in time. There, at the town center, was a gazebo with a band playing music, and all around the gazebo, were people dancing, many in traditional dress, some in dress of times gone by (think: zoot suit) and many in their everyday clothes. The streets were lined with food vendors selling traditional Mexican street food. There were many vendors selling a traditional item of corn kernels in a cup, with mayonnaise on the top, flavored with spices of the customer’s choosing. I did try a taste and it was amazing. Not sure I could eat a whole cup, but certainly can understand why this is such a local favorite.
We actually were back to the hotel by 8:30 tonight. The days start early, the events start later than planned and last longer than planned and it takes a while to get anywhere, so every night had us back to the hotel pretty late. But tonight it was 8:30 which left time to pack and get to bed for another early wake up call at 4:45 to catch our bus to the airport and start our trek towards home.