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Learning To Grow A Garden In A New Country

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

Food and traditions are deeply intertwined.


In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month and the harvest season in our area, we are delighted to share the words of the Andrea Muñiz, who has recently moved from Mexico City to Southwest, WI. Below she weaves a story of learning to grow a garden in a new country, and the community she has found along the way.


Andrea also volunteers with Folk Art Collective, a group of Mexican artists living in Mexico and the US. From their website:


"The origin of this idea began when I realized that my artist friends in Mexico were struggling with the pandemic situation. I know how talented they are, and I know that the world would be interested in knowing more about their art. Our goal with this Collective is to develop a connection between the Mexican folk artists living in Mexico and the Mexican folk artists living in USA, empowering our art through sharing our process, our towns, our inspiration..." - Gabriela Marván, papier-mache artist


On October 16th, they're holding a Dia de los Muertos celebration just outside of Viola at Keewaydin Farm! This cultural immersion event is free to all and promises to be an amazing and enlightening community building experience!

 

"Coming from Mexico, a country where fresh food is diverse and abundant and easily found in stores and markets, it has always been very important to me that I know where to find fresh food and the local producers in my new place of residence.

In early 2021, right at the beginning of spring, I moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA. For the first

A close up picture of two underdeveloped cherry tomatoes resting on someone's fingertips with tomato blossoms in the background
baby cherry tomatoes in the garden // photo credit Andrea Muñiz

time, I experienced the flourishing of life so noticeably, because in central Mexico, where I am from, the seasons of the year are not so clearly marked. Very soon I began to notice the local people preparing for the gardening season by getting seeds and fertilizers from the People's Food Coop, finding vegetable and herb plants from the Amish farms in the area, and getting finished compost for free at the Isle La Plume Brush & Yard Waste Site.


I started to feel connected to the spirit and energy of the community of gardeners, and it was also important for me to have access to organic and fresh food that was not too expensive, so we

undertook the project of having a garden for the first time. In the process, I got to know new varieties of vegetable seeds that are not common in my country and I learned very basic things about horticulture in the United States from online sources and a couple of books in English. In the future, I would like to be even better prepared and to follow the recommendations of gardeners in the area.

Without a doubt, the care of a garden involves a lot of observation, following the growth of the plants week by week, and as the curious person that I am, it became a natural part of my routine.

It was there that I began to create a connection with the plants and to better understand the growth stages of each one, what care they require, how we can help the plants to be happier, and how and when is the best time to harvest.


During this process, I also reinforced my belief in how important it is to know who has produced your food and how it was grown. This involvement seems so necessary to me when choosing what will ultimately nourish our bodies.

For this first time, as a beginning gardener in a foreign place, the decision of which seeds and plants to grow was thought about in terms of what seemed manageable and also by choosing familiar foods within my cultural heritage that were available in the area. Tomatoes, bell pepper, tomatillo, onion, beans and epazote, a Mexican herb that was a great find in an Amish greenhouse, were all part of the selection.

But in the next few years, I would like to include new foods and try common varieties from Mexico with seeds I can find in the US.


As I learned more about my new city of residence and Wisconsin, I discovered the common places

An early Fall shot of a row of vendors at the Cameron Park Farmer's Market in La Crosse, WI
Cameron Park Farmer's Market // photo credit: Andrea Muñiz

to find local food and products. The Farmers Market in Cameron Park became a frequent point of visit during the weeks, and very late in the season, I got to know the Hmong Farmers Market which is now also part of my list of places to get fresh food and meet the producers.


With my little experience as a foreigner in the US, obtaining fresh and healthy food in Wisconsin has been easy because I have some acquaintances living in the area who can recommend places to find it. Also, my level of English allows me to have more interaction with local people and inform myself, but without these two factors, my experience would probably be very different and limited. However, I have met some Mexican people from La Crosse and nearby cities, and I see a great opportunity in building Latino community residents in the area and being able to share experiences and exchange information so that everyone has the possibility of having access to better food."


-Andrea Muñiz

The spread at one farm stand at the Hmong Farmer's Market
Peppers! // photo credit Andrea Muñiz
 

Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15th, the anniversary of the Cry of Dolores and the start of the Mexican War of Independence which resulted in the independence of the area that is now Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Although this is a time set aside to honor the contributions of Latinos in the United States, the work of creating food systems that are equitable twelve months of the year must involve continually listening to all community members and making adjustments based on their experiences and direction.


To ensure that CHS develops programming that reaches everyone in the communities we serve, we are launching our Rural SW WI Food Equity Project. Click here to learn more.




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