Hello again, it’s Miguel. My time at Semilla Nueva has come to a close (in Guatemala at least) and I would like to share with you one of the most memorable experiences I had while working with Semilla Nueva.
One of my tasks while interning at Semilla Nueva was to shadow a man named Trinidad (Trini for short). Trini is Semilla Nueva’s lead field agronomist. In the last 3 months of working with Trini, I can definitely say I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to speak Spanish better, I’ve learned about sustainable agriculture and Guatemalan culture. But the biggest thing he’s taught me is to “try it.”
Trinidad is a husband and father of three girls. He’s got a heart of gold. He can look a bit worried at times, but all of a sudden he’ll flash his contagious smile and you’ll know everything’s alright.
In many ways, Trini is the heart and soul of Semilla Nueva. Every philosophy Semilla Nueva represents, Trini puts it into action.
Trini was a born teacher. As kid he always challenged the status quo. One day in grade school, he asked his teacher a simple question, “Would different types of music effect the milk production of cows while they are being milked?” His teacher replied, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” Trini was phased by this comment and said, “I’d rather be stupid than ignorant” and then he said his 3 magic words, “Let’s try it!”.
The challenge was on, and the class set up the experiment. One cow would listen to heavy metal rock, while the other would listen to classical music. When the results came in, to the class’s surprise, Trini was correct, cows produce more milk when listening to classical music. His teacher told him later, when no one was around, that he was sorry. To this day, Trini likes to listen to classical music.
This wouldn’t be the last time Trini would challenge the status quo. Throughout his studies and beyond he never stopped asking questions.
Semilla Nueva’s ideas of sustainable agriculture go against everything Guatemalan farmers have grown up with. Trini asking a farmer to not till or burn his crops, is like telling someone before Galileo’s time that the world is round. What Trini succeeds at doing is getting people to take a leap of faith, just “try it”, and “let’s see what happens.”
He cautions the farmers that the experiments many not be successful, but that doesn’t mean it failed. “Every experience in life, we learn something,” he says.
What’s come from this simple experimentation has surprised many. After most of these farmers experiment with one technique, they begin to start coming up with their own ideas of improving their harvests. One farmer tries planting corn in a triangular formation. Another plants her corn in troughs of soil, instead of just flat ground. Another farmer experimented by placing the test plot in the middle part of his field, instead of off to the side.
This kind of experimentation is at the heart of Semilla Nueva’s mission of “planting new seeds, for a better tomorrow”. Yes, Semilla Nueva is planting new seeds in the ground, but as Trini explains, the most important new seeds are planted in the hearts and minds of Guatemalan farmers and their families. This kind of change is what will transform Guatemala to a thriving nation.
I look forward to coming back to Guatemala 5, 10 or 30 years from now, and seeing these seeds that Semilla Nueva has planted. I hope that the country as a whole has begun to flourish as brilliantly as the fields we have worked in.