Elsy Canché does not have to buy anything in the market to cook her family’s food. She is self-sufficient enough to go to the family’s vegetable garden and get whatever she needs for cooking a good meal: radish, carrot, lettuce, onion, tomato. And if they want chicken or pork, they can pick one of their own from the backyard.
Besides Elsy also sells 14 different kinds of vegetables in the chapel of the church of Divina Misericordia in the San Ramón North neighborhood of Merida, where a “tianguis” has been established so residents can buy directly from the producer.
People who are growing their own vegetabes in Yucatán, do not use herbicides, chemical fertilizers, or pesticides in their products. Everything is done manually and naturally in the backyards of their own homes. Every Tuesday morning, families enrolled in the “Vida Sana” program organized by the School of Ecological Agriculture of Mani, Yucatan (also known as U Yits Ka’an in Maya) take their organic vegetable products to the chapel where they sell until 2 pm.
They sell by the “sabucán” (Maya word for bag / a.k.a “Maya Backpack”), and each sabucán contains a minimun of 10 different vegetables, which vary monthly, with an approximate weight of seven kilos and a price of 250 pesos. This sale and delivery of vegetables works under subscription, it is to say that if someone wants to join this fair trade system, they must contact the Mani school to register.
This school emerged 22 years ago, under the organization of a group of Catholic priests of which today only two continue leading the project: Atilano Ceballos, as its director, and Raúl Lugo, as secretary. The institution offers agroecology workshops to farmers who seek to improve their practices and honor their ancestral traditions in the milpa (orchard).
Among the practices promoted by the “Vida Sana” project, one of the most important is weeding the milpa or vegetable garden with a brushcutter and no chemicals, so when the garden has been cleaned, birds can eat all the insects that jump from the undergrowth, while other insects living in the subsoil do not get affected because no chemicals are being used.
Other thing that they teach the farmers in the School of Mani is to create a compost so the waste of the vegetables is used to feed animals such as pigs and chickens but also is used as a natural fertilizer. More over, the excrement of pigs is placed in biodigesters (which the school provided to the seven families that are in the program) and serves to obtain biogas.
In her vegetable garden, Elsy Canché has radish, cilantro, chile, tomato, French lettuce, carrot, onion, beet, chard and dill. “I do not buy anything to cook, I come and just harvest my own plate. And then people from the community come to buy (or sell) me some lettuce, cilantro, radish. And from there I sell 100 or 150 pesos a day, plus what we earn for the 14 “sabucanes” that we take to the chapel (3, 500 pesos) every week. And I do not spend on food. ” Of course, production at that pace only lasts during the rainy months, so you have to save and reserve products when planting.
Canché continued: “We live very comfortably here. We have everything: eggs, poultry, pork, vegetables. If I want to make a salad, I just have to go to my backyard and eat healthy. My pigs are fed with the waste of the milpa, but they also eat corn, they do not consume any processed food, we just give them a little bit of salvadillo for protein. And since they are “criollo” (creole) pigs, they do not gain much weight because they also eat healthy. Which is not the case with pigs at the big farms.”
“But producers have three or four pigs in their corral, they just slaughter one a week, sell meat to their neighbors and consume a part. There is no logic here to fatten the pig more than normal. The logic is fair trade, (the direct sale of fresh or seasonal products without middle-men or intermediaries), good nutrition and to earn the necessary income” Canché concluded.
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