September 28, 2010
Marco Antonio Cardenas was recently featured in The Cultivator, an eNewsletter from Green Meadows Farm.
Mark Antonio is our MESA (Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture) student this season. He is 30 years old and comes from Andahaylas, Peru, which is located in the central highlands of the country. This is our seventh year working with the MESA program. He attended the National University San Antonio Abad del Cusco in Peru and for the last several years has been helping people from his region grow and market indigenous crops. They grow corn, potatoes, beans and more unusual crops (to Americans) like oca, mashua and olluco. By growing native vegetables, the farmers are more likely to have success (without chemical fertilizers and pesticides) because these crops have evolved to grow in the Peruvian climate. He is also helping the farmers market these crops.
When he returns to Peru, Mark is excited to bring back with him many techniques he has learned at Green Meadows. We use a bed system for planting crops. In Peru, because many farms don’t use tractors, farmers simply toss the seeds in the ground. In addition to allowing for a tractor to get through the crops, planting in beds can help with other efficiencies for non-mechanized farms. He has learned about mulching, and to start seeds in “plugs” and then transplant them in the ground when ready. He is also excited to bring the idea of the mobile chicken units back to Peru. Mobile chickens means the chicken houses are on wheels, and can be moved through the farm. This results in healthier chickens (because they are constantly getting fresh grass and bugs) and more fertile soil from the chicken manure.
Programs like MESA benefit US farmers, by helping us to find labor, and developing countries, by returning young farmers with a much higher skill set after their work program here. It’s a win win for everyone and we hope to continue working with programs like MESA in the future.
Mark Antonio’s favorite vegetable is the beet.