By: Alexis V.
All of my grandparents were farmers in Mexico. During my earliest years, I grew up in the farms drinking fresh, warm milk, aiming at the heads of chickens with a wooden slingshot to kill them and have them for dinner, drinking and swimming in the water used for surface irrigation, and holding a machete in my hands while my eyes were locked on some bushes. My grandfather would plough the land with horses and some weeks later would swing his white plastic tank on his back to spray herbicide on the fields. Those memories would soon fade once I immigrated to the U.S. where eggs came from large-scale poultry farms and where I did not have to walk ten minutes to collect water from the lady with water supply pipes. After a renewed interest in agriculture (ag) after my sophomore year in college, I joined the Heart of the Heartland (HoH) educational summer program where during the first week I found myself in a smell brought by being in between rows of tomato plants, a familiar smell I was first introduced to in my native country. I have realized that food has revolved around my life in deep and different aspects and in personal ways. I am in this program primarily because I’m interested in food justice and ag policies.
Minnesota’s new buffer law is a policy designed to help improve water quality. During week one of the HoH program, we talked to farmers and knowledgeable people about water quality. Some had already implemented a 50 foot buffer before the buffer law passed, while others collected data from the water running through a subsurface tile drainage system. It is good to know that Minnesotans have imposed further protections on water quality and collected data that may reveal the best practices for farms. Farms like my grandparents’ created surface runoff during intense rain. Knowing about the advent of climate change and the region’s intense rain, my grandparents’ farm likely contributed to poorer water quality. In Minnesota, farmers have tile pipes that lessen loss of sediment on rainy days. Week one of the HoH program has furthered my understanding of what I had observed when younger and has grown my interest in ag policies.
Small, rural farms in Mexico, like my grandparents’, generally provide sustenance for a family. Year by year that way of life has diminished. Many farmers struggle to compete with the low prices of subsidized corn imported from the U.S. Much of that subsidized U.S. corn exported to Mexico generally goes into processed foods. The food deserts, lack of nutritional education, and poverty has either affected my relatives or me. This is why food justice and ag are not only an interest, they have become personal issues. I am hopeful that the program will help me better understand the facets of ag and help me narrow the career I will be most passionate about and can follow with a political science major.