BYU Develops Small-Scale Farms in Mexico

“BYU Develops Small-Scale Farms in Mexico,” Ensign, Oct. 1992, 80

BYU Develops Small-Scale Farms in Mexico

Brigham Young University has signed a fifteen-year agreement with the Mexican Ministry of Education to start a program for small-scale agriculture in Mexico.

The program, developed by the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute, is designed to help individual farm families produce all the food necessary to feed a family of seven by cultivating small plots of land. Carlos I. Perez Torres, director general of the National Agricultural Technical College and High School System in the Mexican Ministry of Education, visited BYU to sign the agreement.

“We’ve had a program with Mexico for a long time, but now Mexico has a renewed interest in our help,” explained James B. Jensen, director of the Benson Institute.

Small-scale programs are already being carried out successfully in several Latin American countries. Brother Jensen said the institute’s efforts in Mexico will expand to greatly improve nutrition for program participants, stabilize families, and triple the cash flow of participating farmers.

The Mexican Ministry of Education wants to integrate the Benson program into more than forty agricultural colleges, Brother Jensen said. The ministry hopes to expand the program gradually to agricultural-technical high schools and to as many Mexican farmers as possible.

One agricultural campus in Mexico is already being established as an international center for small-scale agriculture. Teams from every Mexican state can come to this site to be trained. As the small-scale agricultural program takes root, teams from other countries, as well as those from Mexico, will be trained at the center.

Brother Jensen said the Mexicans are eager to promote small-scale agriculture because although Mexico exports food, it has problems feeding its own people.

The small-scale agriculture program works because it caters to the specific needs of those operating small Latin American farms instead of trying to translate the large-scale farming of the United States into a small-scale plan for Latin America, Brother Jensen said. In comparison with the average 2.5-acre farm in Latin America, U.S. farms range from 300 to 10,000 acres.

Brother Jensen said agriculture on these large U.S. farms is more appropriately called agribusiness, because farmers don’t eat the crops they raise.

“Wheat farmers in Kansas don’t eat their own wheat,” he said. Instead they sell it and use the money they receive to buy everything they need.

By contrast, a Latin American farmer generally will not make enough money on his small farm to pay for all the things he has to buy, Brother Jensen said. Most farmers have to grow all the food their families need before turning to the marketplace.

Using the Benson Institute’s program, a farmer with 2.5 acres of land can grow everything a family needs for a completely balanced diet. Then the excess can be sold. Instead of being based on money and market forces, the selection of farm crops recommended by the program is based on the nutritional needs of the family.