Written by: Antonio Mejia Translated by: Anna Reyes
Sowing a seed, watching it germinate, observing its growth and development, and taking delight in seeing the long-awaited fruit from the plant is very exciting. At the same time, the process brings many challenges due to the obstacles that arise during the process. As garden manager at our El Salvador campus, the Lord has given me opportunity to enjoy this spectacular process time and again. I have also seen that, in the same manner as the plants, I also need to grow and develop in order to give good fruit.
Cultivating our garden in a different manner than the way that agricultural work is normally done requires research, and going further than the borders of the societal system would want me to reach. That means that my mind should think toward solutions for problems in a different way, not in the way that my society tells me to solve them.
I have worked for over 20 years in a conventional agriculture setting in which chemicals are the solution for all types of disease and infestations in the plants. My mind was closed because I did not believe that I had the capacity to be able to grow food in a healthy way, where the solution to my plants’ problems could be found in nature itself.
We started our campus garden in 2016 with just a few cucumber and tomato plants in two small “double-dug” garden beds, a method developed by John Jeavons. I thought that the ground was bad, and the whole idea seemed crazy. But over time, God has shown me that he is with us and that he has great plans for us with this garden. Now, after experimenting with new types of seed, which many neighbors thought would not grow on this piece of land, our produce has a good reputation. With assurance, we can say that we are capable of producing almost 15 varieties of vegetables such as lettuce, onion, carrot, cabbage, eggplant, beet, cilantro, and more.
This entire process has had its challenges related to unstable climate, pests and disease (an issue due to chemicals being previously used on our land). We are now working in a different manner, free of toxic chemicals. This is because we want to restore the health of the land. It’s important to learn to cultivate a variety of foods to ensure a more balanced diet. This brings excellent benefits to our health in contrast to the “trident of monoculture” (corn, rice and beans), which is commonly grown in our country.
Seeing this example and being part of the work has been beneficial for our student-interns, since they are being challenged to open their minds to new horizons regarding food. They are learning not only to care for their own health, but are also exemplifying health for their families.
I am aware that this will be a long journey. However, being in the Lord’s hands, and learning from him, keeps us focused on working to help other families. This work won’t only help our direct neighbors, but other sectors of El Salvador as well. We want them to have food worthy of being eaten safely, without fear that the necessity of eating could be harmful due to food contaminated with hidden toxins.