A result of liquidating the hog operation in 2003 was that it freed up time for Mark to travel. It didn’t take long to discover that there was a relatively un-tapped opportunity to farm in South America.
Brazil is a tropical climate, and the farming practices there were much different than in Ontario. But Argentina and Uruguay have a very similar climate, and farming practices are almost identical, except that the growing season is reverse; it was an excellent fit for another innovative opportunity.
After travelling with my trusted friend Brian Fox who had experience in Uruguay, Mark began a relationship with like-minded individuals there, Gabriel Carballal and Juan Carlo Ordoño. There were huge opportunities to import used North American farm machinery there, and the company took advantage of this – providing a service of sourcing and exporting combines and seeders from the US and Canada, allowing the individuals with whom Fairwind had a relationship a competitive edge for sourcing equipment. It also allowed for a wonderful vacation opportunity in a place where it’s summer in January!
AFRICA: ONE SEED AT A TIME. BY HAND!
In Zambia we are educating 138 of the local rural families on the best way to grow corn in their area, with limited physical resources (their bare hands mostly) and supply them with a “micro loan” of one hectare’s worth of inputs (hybrid seed, fertilizer and weed control pesticides). Yes, that’s 138 hectares (about 340acres) ONE SEED AT A TIME. BY HAND! That’s one seed every foot by hand for 2,760 km!
I am doing this along with the help of his friends at Southwest Ag Partners of Chatham (they are Fairwinds input suppliers in Ontario, and the CFO Paul Hazzard is a personal friend). For this year, the project is being funded by Mark and Southwest Ag. We are hoping in the future to expand, and partner with some of you to fund the micro loans.
It all began when another personal friend of mine, Jon Milos who is the staff advisor for a Lambton College business student group called Enactus. He invited me in to his office one day to ask me questions about agriculture from when he was there helping out an elementary school called Kasaka with supplies, computers and solar panels, and physical needs of the very poor and remote rural community. I answered some of his questions about pigs, cattle and chickens the best I could (they did a poor job trying to raise some of these) and I reluctantly agreed to go.