Armando has become a regular writer for Soil Born Digest. Providing a unique perspective as a MESA Steward on the farm, Armando has written several articles. He writes:
August 10, 2010 Four months have passed since I left Peru to start this amazing adventure in organic agriculture. This time working at Soil Born is giving me a new perspective about agriculture in general. For example, I didn’t know how helpful and important it is to raise animals on your farm. Until the week before last, I was in the Animal Husbandry rotation, which was really cool. I learned how to milk Phoebe our dairy cow. I enjoyed brushing the male cows. I liked walking the cows and the sheep out to the pasture every day, as well as coming back at night, bringing them to their houses. We used to bring the cows in with halters, but now we have started to train them to return home just by running behind them. Actually, this is really fun because you never know what is going to happen. Sometimes the cows are really excited and they want to run all around the farm. They have so much fun that they don’t want to come back to their home. Although I had never worked with livestock before, I really liked the Animal Husbandry rotation. But maybe you’re wondering what benefits there are by raising animals on your a farm…
• The first step is to grow pasture for the cattle. At Soil Born, we grow cowpeas, a legume that fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere to add nitrogen to our soil so that we don’t need to use chemical fertilizer. We grow millet as another kind of pasture with greater root growth, which can help loosen the soil.
• The cattle add manure during the grazing and spread it in different parts of the field, adding natural nutrients to the soil.
• If you train the cows, you can work with them instead of using a tractor, avoiding environmental pollution and soil compaction.
• You can have fresh milk from the cows every day, and organic meat, and also fresh eggs from “las gallinas” (the chickens).
And the most important thing I think that you can do to create more sustainable agriculture is to make your own compost. Last week, we cleared out the animal pens to make a big pile of sheep and cow manure compost. The pile is really big! Jared said: “I’d never made a big pile of compost like that at Soil Born, it’s exciting.” Personally, I’m really happy to see how important the animals are to the farm. Sometimes it is a lot of work, but in the end, you can see the rewards of your efforts! Estoy disfrutando mucho esta experiencia! (I’m enjoying this experience very much!)
October 5, 2010 The season is almost done and it’s going to start to be cold. I can feel it everyday because there’s just a few tomatoes in the field and no more summer squash. Instead we have new beds for the winter season and a lot of winter squash which we are ready to harvest! When I see the pumpkins I know Halloween is close. This is very funny because unfortunately, in Peru, we don’t celebrate Halloween like in the USA. We don’t grow pumpkins that you can carve cool faces in and use for decoration. There’s just some children wearing costumes and they receive candy by going house to house, but adult people are not very involved. It seems like this Halloween is going to be very fun!
Actually, during my time here, I feel like I have learned a lot about the American life, and I think this is awesome. I’m very glad to do this exchange program, and I know when I am back in Peru I’m going to miss this farm a lot. I’m going to miss getting up with the crowing of roosters, harvesting in the field while trying to talk in English, playing with Porter (Jared’s dog), seeing Whiskey trying to walk around the farm ( which is hilarious when he looses his balance), running with the cows to their pen, swimming in the American River and especially hanging out with my coworkers. Everybody has been very nice and very patient with me while I’m learning English, and now I can understand much more than when I arrived. I still would like to improve though. I asked Shawn Harrison what the American River Ranch is going to look in five years and he said, “This is going to look amazing and if you come here to visit us, you’re going to see the difference.”
There so many things to do in Peru and I’m ready to go back. I’m so very grateful to Soil Born and the MESA program for giving me the opportunity to have this great experience. Like Shawn Harrison said, someday I’m going to return for a visit to Soil Born and I know it will look amazing! Gracias!