From The Publisher

April 18, 2016 Edition

We have an interesting article in this issue on teaching folks in the barrio to plant a veggie patch in their back yard. I’m not even going to ask you to please go to that article and read it and come back because I know most of you fake it. You don’t fool me. You don’t go, and then you don’t know what I’m talking about, but that’s your loss. Screw it. Do what you want.

Turns out I’m very interested in agriculture. I even went to the world’s fair in Milan Italy last year because the theme was trends in agriculture. Probably my favorite all time museum is the John Deere tractor museum in Waterloo Iowa. (The postal museum in Washington DC is a contender for that position, as is the Walter Reed museum that has the biggest hairball that ever came out of a person. It’s big.)

The John Deere museum explains how the mechanization of farming has been a major game changer in U.S. history, including John Deere’s steel plow, Cyrus McCormick’s mechanical reaper, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, and the combine that takes the place of no less than 300 workers. The mechanization of farming has changed the social and economic order of the world.

For this and other reasons agriculture fascinates me, although the picking of same is not to my liking. Nor the planting, nor the weeding, come to think of it. I’m more into the cerebral side of farming.

Turns out there is no need for anyone on this Earth to go hungry. We simply don’t allocate food well, due to worldwide political mayhem.

We also are perfectly capable of keeping up with population growth by way of improved ways of farming. The changes we’re making in farming methods now, especially growing food in warehouses with concentrated grow lights and using no soil, are truly amazing.

All this fascinates me, but just as important is my belief that no family should be left behind, no matter how backward the country they live in is.

About 25 years ago I was driving through Honduras, (long story), and we stopped in a backwater town with one hotel in it. That night we were drinking a beer in the only cantina in town, and met what turned out to be the only Gringo in town,. His name was Tom and he had recently graduated from college in Kentucky and landed a job managing a cigar plant in Honduras. He invited us to tour his cigar factory the next day. We were not going to pass that up.

When we arrived at the plant sure enough, Tom gave us a great tour. While we’re standing on the plant floor I spy a bunch of new cardboard boxes coming down a conveyor belt. Printed on them is snow peas in English. I ask, of course, what are snow peas doing in a cigar factory.

Turns out Tom the cigar man is share cropping on the side. He buys pea seeds,  and shows the locals how to plant them, grow them, and harvest them. They have no clue how to do this. Then he exports them and splits the profits 50/50 with his partners. He has not invested any money in land, and very little in seeds. He’s reading how to care for these peas in a dilapidated old book that looks like it’s older than Tom.

I want to do that for my next career. I want to go down to Central America and become a share cropper. I will take a bag of seeds and a wifi hot spot so I can Google how to farm, and teach my partners what I’ve learned. They don’t know how to farm, they don’t have the seed money, and they certainly don’t know how or where to export the harvest. True, I don’t know any of those things either, but I have something better: I have an education that will lead me to the knowledge.

In the year and a half we were bumping around Central America, we learned a lot about the politics of survival and it’s not what you see on TV. It’s also not pretty.

At that time it was trendy to give back the indigenous people “their land”. Fine, now they had a plot of land they had no idea what to do with. They would clear cut it, then farm it out in three years, then demand more acreage to ruin. Nobody in their governments would help them. Not in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador. I would imagine that there are about another 50 or 75 countries with the same problem, but I have barely conquered Spanish, and can’t even contemplate learning a third language. So I want to become a share cropper in Central America.

Maybe I will start with a victory garden in my backyard. Aha! Admit it! You don’t know what I’m talking about, because you didn’t go read the article first! I told you to first read the story about victory gardens in this paper, but noooo, you know better. Now you don’t know from victory gardens, and I’m beating my fingers into little bloody stumps for nothing. I get discouraged sometimes.

But not much.