As the hornmigas appear to be winning this year, I have had to take other measures. Neither Sweet Heart nor I wish to be without our own patch of collards, no matter where we are! So, we went with friends to visit a small family farm near Villa (named for Pancho) and asked if, in exchange for a financial offering, I might create a small garden on their land: for peanuts, collards, sweet potatoes, okra, beans. They have land, a few hectares near the river, but no cash. Farmers around the world face this predicament. They live in a dwelling considerably smaller and less substantial than the shacks my family inhabited when I was a child: constructed of tin, a few slabs of wood, a dirt floor. It was like visiting my own family, in the 1950s, in fact. A mother, father, and one small, friendly, daughter with, apparently, Down Syndrome. La Senora, graying, bright-eyed, and energetic, talked a mile a minute, while Sweet Heart helped El Senor to drag a huge mangera, hose, to drip irrigate what looked like a long row of fledgling papaya trees. Before long we were smiling, at ease with each other. In fact, being with them felt right; as if we already belonged to each other. We didn’t want to leave: talking the while about broken down tractors (his); her missing goats (I think they had to eat them), how much I would like the cheese she makes if she still had goats, the medicinal plants that surround their house: for diabetes, arthritis, and liver troubles. In my excitement that they had chickens, for which I lust, I immediately thought of eggs, which, turning around, I saw she’d brought me. Eleven of them, exactly, as the hens and roosters responsible for this bounty, strutted about proudly. She also gave me several calabasas, pumpkin/squash like vegetables, which my friend, Organizer Heart, who had introduced us, told me would make delicious soup.
I was reminded of why, as a child on a “poor” sharecroppers farm, I never thought we were poor. Because we were always giving. It was giving, as generously as the earth did, that made us feel we had plenty. In fact, my sense of this family – the husband and wife unselfconsciously holding hands, while talking to us – was that they were richer than almost anyone I’d met lately.
Alice Walker ©2008