This post was written by Theresa Osborne. Theresa, her husband Mitch, daughter Valerie, and numerous other family members have been involved in Grow Appalachia at Pine Mountain for 3 years now. The Osborne's are a dedicated GA family that is always excited to learn new gardening, cooking, and agricultural skills. We were very excited to hear about their recent success sharing Grow Appalachia skills abroad, and as always we are very happy to have them involved in our program!
This summer my family and I got the opportunity to take Grow Appalachia, international. The first two weeks of July Valerie, Mitch and I went on a mission trip to Belize Central America. We have been going to this rural farming village of Mafredi for about 12 years and we have made some great friendships.
Mafredi Belize has a lot in common with Appalachia. It is in the southernmost district, it is an area not frequented by tourists and it has high unemployment and poverty rates. Historically families had lived off the land with jobs providing supplemental income. Each Wednesday and Saturday morning the main town in the area, Punta Gorda, has a market street filled with vendors selling fresh produce, spices, herbs, and even fresh shrimp and fish. As we planned for our trip we wondered if there was something from Grow Appalachia that we could share with our friends in Belize.
With that in mind, we bought a pressure canner and packed it into our luggage, and got a copy of the parts list and blue prints for building a PVC pipe chicken tractor. When we arrived I started asking our hostess Mrs. Deena Parham if she thought the women of the village would be interested in learning to can vegetables. She said she didn’t think so, because most people preferred fresh vegetables from the market. I felt a bit discouraged because we had gone to such expense and planning to get a pressure canner into the country.
Then I noticed that she was using commercially canned salsa in some of her recipes. I asked Ms Deena, if she would like to learn to make her own homemade salsa and pickles (cucumbers are usually abundant). Her husband, Mr. Jerry, said he loved pickles, but couldn’t afford them. We looked in town and small jar of pickles was around $12 Belize, or $6 US. So we made plans to have a pickle and salsa workshop.
We set about gathering our ingredients. Our one challenge turned out to be finding the dill for the pickles. Evidently there are only a few of the immigrant families that actually grow it. It took us a few days but we finally found enough dill for our project. On that Saturday afternoon, Valerie and I gathered in Ms. Deena kitchen with three other village women Ingrid Gonzales, Carla Rodriguez, and Rosa Parham to make pickles and salsa.
They were all fascinated with the process. When we finished making the dill pickles, they kept asking, “Is that all there is to it?” They were very excited about tasting the product in the next week after the jars had had time to “Pickle.” Then we started on the homemade salsa, a little more labor intensive process. But we quickly began to laugh and talk as we chopped fresh jalapenos, cilantro, onions, and scalded tomatoes to remove the skins.
|Carla with some of the finished salsa and pickles|
We actually got so involved in talking that we ended up with about four times the amount of jalapenos that I usually use in this recipe. Ms. Deena kept assuring us, “Those peppers don’t burn. They just add flavor. I don’t think it is going to be very hot.” Valerie and I looked at one another and were pretty sure this was going to be an EXTRA hot batch of salsa. As we began to cook it, we pulled out spoons for taste testing. When Mr. Jerry came in we gave him a sample taste. He described it as “Devil Juice.” We worried that maybe it was too hot, even though most Belizeans prefer very spicy food.
That evening at supper, we opened a jar of the salsa for everyone to try. It was a great hit, and had just the right amount of heat they all said. Even Ms. Deena had to admit that it had heat as well as flavor.
|Trimming bamboo to fit in PVC pipes|
We have been so happy with our family’s chicken tractors; we wanted to share that idea with the village. At first it didn’t seem like the idea was going to go over well, but we forged ahead anyway. At home we had used metal conduit inside the PVC to add strength to the structure. In Belize, the high cost of metal conduit called for us to come up with a Belizean alternative. We still wanted to use PVC pipe, even though it was pretty expensive, because termites are a real problem for anything made of wood. But, we decided that bamboo sealed inside the PVC pipe would work to add needed strength. So we asked one of our workers and long-time friend Isadoro Sotz to go into the bush and chop us some bamboo that would fit inside our one inch PVC. It took a little trimming, but it fit right inside the pipe, and provided plenty of strength.
It took several days to build the tractor because we were doing other work, but we were ready for the roof by the time we left. We left it up to the community whether to put a metal or palm thatch roof on it. But we added extra wire over the area where the roof would go just in case they decided to put a thatch roof for extra security.
|Valerie and Isadoro putting wire on the chicken tractor|
We decided that we would give this chicken tractor to the village school to help with their feeding program. They could eat the eggs, sell the eggs, or raise meat chickens to eat using the tractor. Isadoro became very interested in the tractor idea, as did our host, the school principal and a Pastor friend of ours from a neighboring village. They all wanted copies of the plans so they could build their own chicken tractor and show others. Carla Rodriguez also wanted to see about building one for her chickens. Her father has an organic farm and she raised her chickens there and was having a hard time keeping up with them and finding the eggs.We have been asked that from now on, whenever we come back the villagers want to do more of these food preservation/preparation workshops. All in all it was a great sharing experience, and one we would not have had if not for our participation in Grow Appalachia.