Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Greetings to MOFGA from Karen and Paul in El Salvador and from your sisters, CCR and CORDES. We've been in El Salvador for a month now living in a small village in the mountains. Among the goals for our trip here is to further strengthen the MOFGA\CCR\CORDES sistering relationship, which was initiated during the 2000 agricultural delegation to this region. As our language skills improve, we are becoming more and more involved in the community and learning a great deal about the reality of campesino life. We have met with CCR\CORDES for an update on their projects. They emphasized to us the grave problems that small farmers face here. Conditions such as poor soil, steep slopes, lack of water (November through April), the rising prices of inputs, and crashing prices on basic grains due to globalization have forced many to leave their land and every day threaten more. Efforts to end this trend and improve nutrition, soils and family income include working with campesinos to develop sustainable small family farms. To this end CCR\CORDES have given many trainings on farming using organic methods, long term planning, diversification, and permaculture. Many demonstration farm projects have been developed throughout the region. A successfu, women-run solar drier project produces a variety of dried fruits from excess fruit. Markets have been developed on the local level with plans for expansions nationally and internationally.

CORDES sponsors a model organic farm in the village where we are living. We visited this farm again during the agricultural delegation of 2000 and again recently. The development of this farm over the last two years has been amazing. The acre of pineapple plants newly planted in 2000 will produce 2000 pineapples this year. The coconut trees are about to produce their first crop of fruit. Terracing, wind breaks, water retention methods, and successive plantings are all employed to deal with the aforementioned problems. Schools and adults visit the farm to learn about these practices. This project is an example of what can be done using sustainable, organic methods and one that is being duplicated throughout the area.

The products of CCR\CORDES projects are not currently certified. These organizations have a great interest in organic certification and are looking to us for guidance. At a meeting on organic agriculture in October, they surveyed all the growers there on the growing methods they use. The list looks very similar to MOFGA's certification application. They have requested that we work with them to develop a system to certify small organic farmers that would be affordable. They also are interested in having a delegation of farmers from MOFGA come to El Salvador and equally interested in having a delegation of people from Chaletanango visit Maine. The solidarity across borders is something extremely important to people here, a way to share issues and success and to have their struggles visible to the rest of the world.

We will be working with CCR\CORDES and visiting many more of their projects over the next several months. We will have a full report in the next issue of The MOF&G. Until then, adios.

– Karen and Paul Volckhausen

(Ed. note: Karen and Paul own Happytown Farm in Orland, Maine.)

MOF&G Cover Spring 2002