My world travel continues – this time to Mexico. I am delighted when I have an opportunity to share my knowledge with people in other parts of the world who can truly gain from my experience. My volunteer work in these countries helps struggling, underdeveloped communities to become self sustaining and in turn continues to help the lavender industry as a whole survive worldwide.
I was recently contacted by a member of St. Anthony’s Alliance, a non-profit organization whose goal is to enhance the health and well being of people living in moderate to extreme poverty. (You can learn more about this great organization at http://www.stanthonysalliance.com/ ). They asked if I would come to La Colorada, a small village in Guanajuato, Mexico, to share my knowledge and assist the community in expanding and marketing their lavender crop and products.
When I arrived, I was amazed at what they have accomplished in only seven years. With the help of St. Anthony’s, a new irrigation pump was purchased and the parched once fertile ground was soon growing lavender and corn, beans, alfalfa and soy beans. They have grown from their initial 2 acre lavender field to raising thousands of plants. Enough lavender to provide jobs for many of the village residents. They are now drying, distilling and producing many value-added products. The men in the project, mostly farmers, now have gainful employment in their own village and need not risk leaving their families behind to seek uncertain employment across the border. The women, once with no hope of employment, are now producing the soaps and oils as well as wands, sachets and wreaths which they transport by donkey cart to sell at local markets. They now have a green house for propagating, acres and acres of land available for planting, a warehouse for drying, a commercial kitchen for making the soaps and oil and a sewing center where they make therapeutic neck and eye pillows. (A dream come true for any lavender farmer)
My mission was to find out why some of their plants would start off well and then just stop producing as well as to teach the villagers about planting methods and new varieties. To give them new insight on marketing and selling their products beyond the small local markets. I spent much time with the farmers, touring the fields and discussing the problems they were facing. I talked with them about which varieties were best suited to their location and their goals. I held a class to teach them new marketing methods and talk about other products they can begin producing.
It was a very good trip and I hope to be returning again soon to see how they are progressing. It was one of those trips where I think I came away with far more than I gave. It was so heartening to see these people once living in poverty and despair become a totally self sustaining community, able now to support themselves and their families. It is easy to understand why Teresa Balcomb and other members of St Anthony’s are so dedicated to helping these people. As well as the help St. Anthony’s Alliance has provided to the village of La Colorada there are many individuals living in nearby San Miguel, the largest town in the area, who are donating their time and experience to help change the way the people of Mexico are living. I am glad I had the opportunity to participate in this great humanitarian effort.