By Polly Edmunds
Every day I spend in Palomas is wonderful but yesterday was exceptional! I learned even more than I usually do, saw impressive projects and was even more grateful for our hard-working staff.
It all began with an invitation to meet with Morgan Smith, a good friend of Border Partners (BP), at our office. He wanted to talk about the how my husband and I and Helena Myers had started BP. It was fun to talk with him in our office which is now back on the same corner as where we had our first meetings in 2008, to talk with women about what Palomas needed.
Since growing healthy food was one of the first things those women said they needed. So, our conversation with Morgan naturally turned to how our gardening program has evolved over the years. Early on, we began using manure from the stockyards in town to enrich the native soil. Now we have found a source of manure that is well-aged rather than fresh. Using aged manure serves us better because it is useful in much less time because it doesn’t require a time-consuming wait.
For the last seven years, we’ve added bio-char to our compost. Made from burning pecan shells in special stoves, bio-char holds nitrogen in the soil and releases it slowly to plants. Our Gardening Coordinator, Joel Carreon, told our group that now they are experimenting with growing plants in the manure/biochar mix alone without any soil.
They’re also planning to experiment with several different growing “soils” in our new (third!) community greenhouse. This experiment will demonstrate the difference that the type of soil makes in plant vigor and production. The soils will be:
- local dirt alone
- dirt with added bio-char and manure
- bio-char and manure alone
During our conversation, the Promotoras were busy making their daily lunch for seniors. The menu included a main-dish salad with vegetables (mostly from the BP gardens) served on a tostada. We all loved the samples they gave us!
Here’s the recipe: Veggie Salad with Soya and Lime
Just cut up equal parts of cabbage, carrots, celery and spinach. Add some dried soy granules (sometimes called texturized vegetable protein or tvp). Dress it with lime juice and a bit of salsa. Serve with chips or on a tostada. This is a taste of Mexico!
Then, the excitement started! Staff were running into the office building and calling for water! Flames spewed across the street from a pickup owned by the Volunteer Fire Department. The fire grew rapidly and was quite scary. In just minutes, the fire truck arrived to douse the flames. But, the truck was ruined. Fortunately, no one was injured.
In the middle of all this we were pulled aside to meet the new Mayor of Palomas, Jose Adame, who had come to see what was happening.
Then it was time to see some gardens. We visited the community greenhouses which had winter greens in all stages of growth – from ready-to-pick to just starting to grow. Good planning, gardeners.
Next we drove south to see one of the home greenhouse gardens and meet Yolanda Garcia and her daughter who grow healthy vegetables assisted by our BP gardeners.
Our last stop was at the home of Jose Luis Munoz, one of our gardening staff, and his family. His wife, Monica Montano, showed us all the environmentally-friendly methods they have incorporated into their backyard “farm”:
- fruit trees and flowers watered with water from their washing machine;
- a BP greenhouse filled with vegetables and
- sheep, chickens, rabbits, and quail growing in pens.
As we were leaving Monica and Jose’s home, Juan Rascon, told us more good news. An official from the state government agency that assists adults who want to learn trades contacted him for more information about BP’s gardening program. They will make a visit soon to discuss it further.
This was truly an inspiring day. I’m very grateful for our staff for their hard work in maintaining the high quality of all of our programs and all of our supporters who make our work possible with donations of all kinds.