MISSION, RGV – TIME magazine has noted that my hometown, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas metropolitan area, has the highest rate of people living below the poverty line in the country.
However, the scourge of poverty only escalates when you move just outside of the metropolitan area into places called colonias. Colonias have been around for so long that people just accept them as a part of the Rio Grande Valley that will never change.
People often have the idea in their head that a complex problem like poverty warrants an equally complex solution. My new book “How Goats Can Fight Poverty” challenges this notion by detailing a plan I came up with to fight poverty in rural areas like the colonias with nothing more than some goats, some plants, and some cooperation.
This plan, often referred to as my “goat idea,” all came together for me upon a study abroad trip to Argentina in which I learned about how the farmers in Argentina overcame barriers to entry by joining together. Learning about this practice triggered a curiosity in me about how this practice could be applied to places like the colonias within the Rio Grande Valley.
I knew that every house in the colonia sits on at least half an acre of land in order to receive plumbing. Most people would see those small pieces of land and think nothing profitable can be done with them, but I saw an opportunity. After six years of goat herding, I can tell you that the typical piece of land in the colonias is not big enough to support a cow, but it is certainly big enough for two to three dairy goats!
So, I approached La Unión del Pueblo Entero, community group that helps colonia and low-income families, with the idea of giving three goats to 30-40 families in the colonias in order to form a cooperative that could match the size of a real goat dairy. This would allow the families the ability to split large costs like a pasteurization machine and to fill out large contracts for entities like a supermarket. Also in order to maximize the money received by the families in the cooperative, I suggested that they make goat cheese with the milk produced—the most profitable product a goat can make.
This idea and the efforts I have made to make it a reality have won me the Pal Make-A-Difference Award and have even been the subject of a Resolution passed in the Texas House of Representatives, thanks to the support of state Reps. Bobby Guerra, Oscar Longoria, and Sergio Muñoz. Despite these recognitions, I understand that my small operation does not have the capacity to change many lives outside of the Rio Grande Valley—which is why I decided to write “How Goats Can Fight Poverty.” I want to give my idea to anyone who wants to make it his or her own. After reading this, I hope this newspaper’s readers realize that a complex problem like poverty does not always warrant an equally complex solution. Sometimes the solution to a problem like poverty can be as simple as a few goats, some plants, and a little cooperation.
As a final note I would like to add that a quarter of the proceeds from the sale of my book will go to the Knapp Community Care Foundation in Weslaco, Texas, and another quarter will go to LUPE in order to support the incredible work that they are doing to better our community.
Editor’s Note: Samuel Garcia’s new book, How Goats Can Fight Poverty, became available on Amazon on Wednesday, August 5. Click here for the link.