Next issue on August 7th ! Lilt of Creole in Compton
The Sanders Farm, owned and operated by Russell and Therese Pocock and located in Compton, is now in its 39th year of operation; a shining example of a successful, organic, family-run farm. Trucks roll into the farm’s yard fifty-two weeks a year to pick up a wide
variety of produce, depending on the season, for the ever-growing organic food markets in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. What better place for stagiares from other countries to come to work at with the aim of exchanging successful farming techniques and practices.
“In the past we’ve had stagiares from France and Germany, but this is the first time we’ve had stagiares from Haiti,” said Russell Pocock about his two ‘house and farm’ guests who arrived in April: Rose Betty David and Fisher Raymond. “I went there last year with the UPA and found out about this stagiare program with UPA DI (Union des producteurs agricole Developpement International). “As of this year, $5 from the annual UPA fees goes towards this program,” he said, adding: “This project has been in Haiti since 2009 and there have been lots of exchanges between farmers here and there. A bulk of the work done in Haiti is helping to build farming organiza- tions.”
As customers came and left, most carrying baskets of chemical-free strawberries, the two stagiares took some time off to talk about agriculture in Haiti and their experience living on a Quebec farm. “Back in Haiti, we work in an area called Labrousse with the Fondation pour le developpement economique et social (FODES- 5),” said Rose Betty. “In this project, they work for grass roots organizations to develop that whole area. The project is also about education, health and the environment. The UPA DI and other Quebec organizations are in partnership with FODES – 5,” explained Mr. Pocock.
“I came here to see how Mr. Pocock works his land and to get some experience that I can share with farmers in Haiti,” mentioned Ms. David whose work back home includes helping farmers organize themselves into groups then following up on the success of these groups. “In Haiti, I work at a farming school where we teach market gardening, animal raising, soil management and forestry,” said Mr. Raymond.
Rose Betty and Fisher have been manning the Sanders Farm’s booth at the North Hatley Farmers Market since it opened in the spring. “Another thing I want to do is work on the commercialization of farm products; it’s one of the goals of our stage,” said Ms. David. “Our objective in Haiti is to have organic farming. There is a lot of interest in the environment, in reforestation, and raising awareness. Here, we’ve learnt some basic techniques of organic agriculture, we’ve learnt about the organization of work tasks; we’ve learnt a lot,” they commented. These enthusiastic Haitians have undoubtedly taught their hosts a few things as well, if not about persevering, then at least about believing in the power of change. Issues of land ownership pose not only problems with the reconstruction effort in areas of Haiti that were affected by the earthquake, but also with Haitian farmers since it has a huge impact on Farm Credit.
Of course, a first visit to Canada can’t be all work. “I
was really surprised by the temperature when we first got here. When we were driving here after getting off the plane in Montreal, we stopped at Bromont to see the snow,” said Fisher. Asked if he wished he had snow in Haiti, he didn’t hesitate before saying: “No! Ice cream, yes. But no snow.” Their visit to the Laiterie de Coaticook might have had something to do with Fisher’s answer. “I was surprised by the extremes of temperature, even on the same day. The people are ‘cool’ here – maybe it’s the temperature,” joked Rose Betty.
Asked if they liked the food here, the visitors looked at each other and couldn’t help but giggle. “It’s different,” they said rather diplomatically, adding: “We’re used to a lot of grains and vegetables.” And poutine? “I liked it before they put the sauce on it,” said Rose Betty. Fisher wouldn’t even give our infamous dish a try.
Switching from food to politics, I asked how it was going with their new president, Michel Joseph Martelly. “Up until now it’s going well.” In their opinion, it’s not going so well with our own Prime Minister. “There is no new money for projects in Haiti from your federal government anymore,” commented Rose Betty.
Besides learning a lot about how we farm in Quebec, the two Haitians were disappointed to learn that many Canadians have an overly negative image of Haiti. “People here don’t seem to have a true image of my country. We have many beautiful and safe areas in the south,” said Ms. David. The two also had to learn how to deal with the media: since their arrival they have been interviewed for the television, the radio and several publications besides the Stanstead Journal.
“We’ve taken lots of photos here to show people back home and, now that we know lots of people here in Canada, we might come back.”
Haitians Fisher Raymond and Rose Betty David have been working on the Sanders Farm, in Compton, where they are learning organic farming techniques, sharing Haitian farming tips, and dispelling myths about their beautiful homeland.