High up in the mountains above Trinidad, Santa Barbara, a joyous group of people gathered to celebrate the graduation of 34 farming families from the Sustainable Harvest International five-phase organic farming program. The families came from six villages located on three different mountains: El Tule, La Majada, El Cablotal, El Cerron, El Robledal, and La Laguna Verde. Since July, 2008, the Trinidad Conservation Project (made up of churches and individuals in Washington D.C.has supported the program in these communities.
The graduation ceremony and lunch took place in the community center in El Tule. More than 40 people crammed themselves into the space to witness the ceremony. For me, it was a wonderful reunion. The room was filled with the men, women and children I have gotten to know over the past nine or ten years since I have been traveling there.
Consuelo was the first one I saw. She is such a wonderful person – generous, hard working, and always smiling! I met her when my church started supporting her church community’s basic grain storage project in 2003. She and her husband Salvador traveled about three hours from El Cerron to be there. Consuelo is a field trainer for SHI now. She and Salvador graduated from the program that day as well. As a field trainer, Consuelo has been teaching women how to prepare, package and market their products, especially plantain chips.
Around the room in the community center, farmers had set up stands to showcase and sell their products. There was roasted and ground coffee, pickled vegetables, marmalade, sweet green peppers, plantain chips, and honey. This young woman selling plantain chips came from Laguna Verde.
The graduation ceremony started with talks from SHI leaders and local staff. Then the leaders of each community were called upon to speak about their experiences with the program and the successes they have had. The stories from the leaders were very moving, especially the testimony from Maria de Jesus Cortes of Laguna Verde. She spoke from the heart about how her life had been changed by learning how to farm organically and how to market her produce. We all had tears in our eyes when she had finished.
After the testimonies, we ate a wonderful, healthy lunch made by the families from their organic fruits, vegetables, and spices, including delicious soy products.
After lunch and mingling with our friends, some of us went to Don Virgilio’s house to see his new silos and his vegetable garden. His silos were built with funds provided by TCP to teach farmers how to build silos to store grains safely and to teach others how to build similar silos. I was sad to leave my friends in the TCP communities so soon, but I am very happy to have celebrated with them such a great milestone in their lives. These families have come this long distance in large part because of the financial support from TCP supporters. All of you can rightfully celebrate their achievement as well.