Working Project Directors: Marie Pruden (Horticulture Consultant)
Wendy Hill (Acting Project Director)
Since 1997 ACÁ has established many student-operated organic fruit and vegetable farms in the Lake Chapala area. The purpose of the farms is to demonstrate that many fruit, vegetables and staple crops such as corn and beans, can be grown on small parcels of land using efficient time and water conservation methods that are ecologically safe in striking contrast to the wasteful and destructive techniques used in local commercial farming.
The students come from all over Mexico including very low-income Mexican communities. They are involved in the planning, seeding and planting of the gardens and learn from their own successes and mistakes. New students are accepted regularly into the program. The participants take home produce they grow to help support their families and others in need individuals within their communities. Senior students, who joined the project at the beginning, form an integrated team that now operates and manages the farm operation.
As apprentices, other students have gained experience and confidence to assist the less experienced students. The Trainers participate in seed selection and agricultural problem solving. All students have signed an agreement to share their knowledge with other students. The long-range intent of the program is to encourage these students and others to establish a network of small, but self-sufficient community farms throughout the lake area, together with a community-supported alliance to distribute the produce cooperatively.
The marketing of a small portion of the produce from these farms will subsidize the employment of selected student graduates and provide a source of recurring income for the continuing education Training Programs and garden operations of ACÁ.
The first organizational phase of the project, which involved the recruitment of students, the acquisition and preparation of the fields, and the planting and harvesting of the first crops, is now complete. Many tons of food have been produced and distributed. A small portion 15% has been sold to generate revenue for the project. A ripple effect has brought more than 300 individuals from the Volunteers, students and extended families into the program.
Slowly Global Environmental Concerns and an awareness of Safe Farming measures are being implemented which brings us to Phase II.
Phase II has, as its goal, the upgrading of irrigation facilities, increased food production through garden development projects and the greater participation of individuals and businesses in the greater Lake Chapala area .A coalition of donors, sponsors, volunteer workers, fund-raisers, are increasing, and this network, has increased the efficiency of all phases of the operation, and continually raise the profile of the program.
We depend upon the acquisition of development funding, salaries for Full time Staff providing continuity and efficiency.Vitally needed items of capital equipment include Solar Soil Sterilization Unit, a Tractor, an overhead Projector, A Delivery Vehicle,Building Supplies and Labor to improve the Training Facilities.
The project demonstrates that community-based environmental education, especially in the areas of water conservation and organic food production, can result in an expanded food supply (free of dangerous pesticides and fertilizers). The project further provides skill training to prepare students to secure employment in the agricultural industry. Preferably as students operating ACÁ gardens. We like to hire our graduates, as we have 4 Trainers presently operating the gardens.
The members of the Board of Directors are women and the project encourages the participation of the family, thereby expanding their vocational opportunities and options for self-sufficiency. Families participate and are the primary labor force in the gardens.
Two of the founding project directors and acting directors, Wendy Hill and Marie Pruden are firmly grounded in horticulture, environmental education, and community organization. Their résumés are included as Attachment A. Presently ACÁ in managed by volunteers such as Wendy and Marie.
The project includes training approximately new students each year. Each student is expected to contribute ten hours a week for three (3) years. Twenty Five students are actively involved in the program with an extended support system of over three hundred (300) who participate in varying degrees in all aspects of the project as experts in theyre field, volunteers, participants and beneficiaries.
Address: Juarez Ote. No. 316 (home/office)
45800 Jocotepec, Jalisco, Mexico