Special 8-Part Series

Part 8 Building a Sustainable Empire

Part 8 Building a Sustainable Empire

BY MARIANO NARARRO, FIELD TRAINER

To me, the partnership between the Reyes family and Sustainable Harvest International is like a couple holding hands and walking together toward a common goal—a mutually enjoyable “empire.”

The goals of Sustainable Harvest International are wide and there are many branches to each of them. If the families I work with integrate the majority of what we teach, helping us to achieve these goals, I feel I’m doing my job well.

Part 7 In Goods Hands with Encarnacíon

Part 7 In Goods Hands with Encarnacíon

At the outset of this story series, we set out to answer the question: what sets the Reyes apart? How are they like other families? What makes them different?

We put this question to Encarnacíon (Joaquín and Urita’s youngest daughter) one morning before she rushed off to school. Though we had found a quiet place in the shade to talk, that didn’t stop Encarnacíon’s nieces and nephews from gathering around to hear our conversation. Luckily, Encarnacíon is not easily distracted.

Part 6 Happy Anniversary to Joaquín + Urita

Part 6 Happy Anniversary to Joaquín + Urita

Piedras Gordas, Panama— 31 years ago, amidst the festivities of patronales in Santa Marta, Panama, Urita and Joaquín first met. Saint Martha, is the patron saint of the small town where Urita was born and raised. Every year, Saint Martha is celebrated on July 29, during patronales.

People from all over had come to celebrate, play music, and feast. If you’ve ever attended a patronales celebration, the sounds of salomas (Panamanian shouts), the colors of the polleras (skirts), and the smells of bollos de maiz nuevo (sweet corn tamales) will already be familiar to you. Imagine a town full of flowers and bursts of color—everyone wearing their best hats, blouses, and earrings, dressed to the nines (including Urita and Joaquín).

Part 5 Climate Change Comes to Piedras Gordas

Part 5 Climate Change Comes to Piedras Gordas

“As a farmer, one of the effects of global warming I’ve noticed is how this once abundant brook has lost so much of its volume. It used to have many different species like shrimp, bream, and sardines. You can see how low it is now. The life it had is gone.

So, what do I want to say about this? We’re worried. The challenge for us is that we have to care for the planet. This affects all of us—children, teenagers, adults, and older people like me…we’re all in trouble."

Part 4 Eliaquim's Big Question

Part 4 Eliaquim's Big Question

“I’m tired of living like this,” Eliaquim says. “I want to be able to provide for my family. I want air conditioning and a beautiful house. When I tell all of this to my father, he says, ‘Okay, you are welcome to do all of that, but just remember, you can’t eat money.’ I know he’s right. I value the farm and the way I was raised, but it’s not all I want out of life.”

Meet Eliaquim, Joaquín's oldest son (and find out what his daughter, Nathalia, is whispering!).

Part 3 Urita: the Matriarch's Burden

Part 3 Urita: the Matriarch's Burden

“All of our children have their own aspirations,” says Urita. “Some want to study medicine, they want to make money. If any of them decide that they’d rather go in that direction, I just hope that they’d hire someone to keep working on the farm with us in their place so that we can continue on in the same manner that we have been working in.”

Part 2 Joaquín: Speaking the Same Language

Part 2 Joaquín: Speaking the Same Language

“What would your grandfather think if he saw the way you’re farming it now?” we ask.

Joaquín looks out at the farm and chuckles. His laugh, like his voice, is quiet, gentle, and slightly wheezy.

“He’d laugh,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye. He’d laugh because Joaquín’s farm looks nothing like it did back in the early 1990’s.