Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A New Path

An update to all my Friends, and Family

Many of you may have heard that I have decided to move to Guatemala for an indefinite amount of time. I am happy to say that this is true and, following the example of my older sister Sheylan, I have been inspired to reach out and contribute my energies to helping others in our world. Setting forth on this path, I have recently joined four great friends of mine to live and work in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. This may not come as a great surprise to those who know me well as I have been a regular traveler in Latin America. However my decision to move here is life changing, and committing to live in a foreign land, far from snowy mountain peaks was not easy. I hope you enjoy my words as I share why I’m here, and what I will be doing.

Living with a deep respect and appreciation for nature has always been a passion of mine. I have participated in development projects in the past, always with the goal of encouraging environmentally friendly choices, and helping others. This move to Guatemala, however, is the first endeavor in which there is no end date in sight, rather infinite possibilities for growth. Together with a group of friends with whom I have played, worked, and traveled for many years I will be learning and encouraging a transition towards ecologically sound farming practices. We intend to foster knowledge, build leadership, and provide resources that will help align food production with the natural cycles of Earth’s ecosystems. Even though this work is far from my home, I am intrigued to be involved in Guatemala. The people here are ready to take hold of this opportunity and lay the foundation for sustainable changes that may one day sweep the globe.

One component to our work that has steadily been building momentum and keeping us very busy is our Non-profit, Semilla Nueva (New Seed): We collaborate with leaders of agricultural communities to implement pilot investigations that prove the viability and profitability of sustainable systems. First, we work with community leaders to identify the most valuable sustainable technologies with which to experiment. Second, we help community leaders experiment with these technologies on their own land, providing technical assistance and support. Third, we measure results and work with leaders to share findings within their community and beyond. We have been welcomed warmly by individuals, government agencies, and farmer associations, some with over 800 members. This means our work with one community leader has a tremendous potential to reach many farmers.

While community work and leadership building are important pieces to the puzzle we feel that providing environmentally friendly alternatives also plays an important role in the transition of agriculture. As such we have started a triple bottom line company Alternativas Orgánicas de Guatemala (Organic Alternatives Guatemala): We help farmers sustainably grow their yields by offering environmentally friendly alternatives to agrochemicals. Alternativas Orgánicas works to build markets and competition within the sustainable agriculture products sector of Guatemala. Currently, there are only two other providers of sustainable agriculture supplies in all of Guatemala and both focus on export crops like tea or coffee (rather than food). Further, instead of trying to replace chemical systems, they generally work to optimize them. We strive to change this reality by offering farmers a full suite of organic alternatives that can incrementally replace agrochemicals.

By integrating the work of Semilla Nueva and Alternativas Organicas we strive to enable a holistic transition in which all farmers have access to profitable and environmentally sound growing practices. Through collaborative research, technical support, and building markets for sustainable technologies we provide the tools for change. On one hand, Alternativas Orgánicas enables us to approach large industrial producers with an organic means of improving their soil quality, work conditions, and yields. On the other, Semilla Nueva works with small producers who benefit more through learning sustainable methods than investing in alternative products. In time, the work of both organizations will complement one another. Organic systems will become more prevalent allowing producers to understand their farm’s ecology more clearly, and share their knowledge with fellow farmers. Gradually both organizations will help build a network connecting small farm communities to the large industrial producers. Through these networks we aim to encourage innovation, progression, and entrepreneurial opportunities across all scales of agriculture, and unify people in comprehensive actions to grow within natures ecosystems.

Indeed, these are lofty goals for a group of young activists, however I am confident in the ability of our team to endure through difficult times and steadily progress our vision for sustainable change. This summer is perhaps one of the most difficult times we will face. Our work currently demands our minds to be highly focused and strong as we build relationships with leaders, learn the complexities of farming, coordinate volunteers to facilitate projects, and invest not only all of our time but also our small savings to make these projects happen. Personally, I could not ask for a better challenge nor would I wish to be facing it with any others than those involved. Currently I am organizing volunteers and community projects for Semilla Nueva, while simultaneously learning to represent and grow our company with large farms and organizations. These tasks will present me the rare opportunity to learn more about Guatemalan culture, farming, and myself through daily experience as I directly pursue environmental and social change.

I am also thankful to be blessed with the opportunity to finally live with my girl friend of a year, Yaoska Liduvina Rosales Suarez—a beautiful, brilliant, and passionate lady from Nicaragua. Her presence will provide the loving support to keep my heart and soul healthy through these times of discovery, difficulty, and resilience. After a year of long distance phone calls, and emails I am very excited to spend time learning more about her as our relationship grows. In time and with luck, we will bypass the complicated and expensive visa process, and Yaoska will have the opportunity to meet my crazy family and friends and share her smiles with you as she has with me.

If there is one thing that I may ask of you all, my friends and family, it is to offer as much support from abroad as possible. As you well know I appreciate all means of support, smiles, jokes, and loving energy, however at this moment we are also walking a very fine line financially. Currently our teams savings are dwindling as we have taken it upon ourselves to pay operational costs while we explore as many avenues as possible to stabilize funding. The immediate goal is to build a foundation of members and donors, who’s generosity ensures our ability to follow through on our commitments to work with farmers who are eager to collaborate. Your donation will go a long way for us, so please, if you are able, visit our website www.semillanueva.org

, read our blog, learn about our work, and become a member of the Semilla Nueva network.

From Guatemala I send my love, smiles, and blessings. To all you who have helped me grow, and learn how to approach life with endless positivity Thank You! And know that as with any of my houses, my doors of hospitality are wide open to any who wish to visit. Come spend some time with me here as I embark on this life changing experience in pursuit of contributing positively to the lives of all those who I come across in this exciting and abstract path that I walk.

Lots of Love, Brook Golling

PS. To contact me in Guatemala you can:

E-mail me at: brookgolling@semillanueva.org

Call me at: (011) 502.40.218.418

Or send letters to my home address in Oregon

Po Box 362

Ashland OR, 97520

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