Over the past year, approximately 20 EARTH students have collaborated with Lidia Hernández Pereira to make technological improvements on her 10-acre farm as part of their work with EARTH’s Community Development Program. In return, they gain experience implementing the sustainable agricultural practices they have learned in the classroom and will eventually bring home to their communities.
EARTH students have improved Hernández’s farm in four major ways: introducing new crops and improving their cultivation, creating a greenhouse for the development of organic crops, building a biodigester which transforms human and animal waste into sustainable energy and treats waste water, and teaching Hernández how to raise and produce free-range chickens.
“At first, it was difficult to make people understand how much better the free-range chickens are, but now that they’ve tried them, everyone comes to me to buy their chickens,” said Hernández.
Hernández’s crops include lettuce, cucumber, tomato, cilantro, heart of palm, plantain, corn, mango, yucca, yams, and various herbs. Recently, the students have taught her how to produce milk and cheese from her cows. Each trimester, the students and Hernández sit and discuss their ideas and goals for the farm to create a business strategy. Each Wednesday, they work on the land and in surrounding communities to make these goals into a reality.
Hernández speaks very graciously about EARTH students. “It’s been so important to have the students’ input. We never stop experimenting and learning. The knowledge they’ve brought me is beautiful.”
Sindy Ramos (Guatemala ’16) is a fourth year student who works on Hernández’s farm. Her specific role is to sell their products to people in the surrounding area, and doing so has raised awareness of how eating organic, fresh food can improve one’s health. “I feel good that we are improving peoples’ quality of life. As agents of change, we are obligated to help, and this experience is giving me an idea of the work that is waiting for me in Guatemala.”
The students and Hernández (who is unmarried without children) have developed a strong bond over the past year. “No matter what nationality or race, all the students are equal to me. I treat them as if they were my own children. Some of them are from other countries far away, and so they need a mom here.”