“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” — Masanobu Fukuoka, One-Straw Revolution
The day is coming to an end. The sun is slowly disappearing on the horizon, over the tall Eucalyptus trees. Soon, another cycle will start when the moon awakens and takes her place in the sky. I am sitting on the fence at the Las Marias ranch, in my hand, a gourd filled with Mate. I feel connected. I hear the Land talking to me. I hear the birds in the trees. I hear the bulls bellowing. I hear the horses, the geese. I hear the grunting of the pigs. I hear laughter. I hear kids playing. I even hear the monkeys howling in the forest not far away. Nothing could be more different than standing at the edge of a monoculture farm we have grown so accustomed to in the “Civilized World”. How many times have I stood in endless fields of wheat and heard nothing more than the sound of the wind frisking the golden grass. Our modern farms are lands of desolation and loneliness. But here, right in front of me, Life reigns. Everybody is free to roam. And everyone does. Even the cattle whom so many believe can’t run, are galloping. And the soil, this red dirt that everybody wears with pride. Their boots are covered by it, their trucks are encrusted with it. It is their way to honor what the Land has given them. They owe everything to it. This red dirt is more than soil, it is the heart, the foundation of their culture. No wonder why they drink Mate with such loyalty and honor, a tree that only grows here and from which Yerba is harvested.
Las Marias is a company that has made its mission to be in harmony with nature and its people. Everything and everyone is connected. From the very beginning, Victor Navajas never saw himself as a simple farmer, but believed in enriching human lives. As his company grew, so did his desire to spread happiness. Today, Las Marias is more than just a Mate producer. Here, quality is king. Beside being vertically integrated, employees are offered a broad range of benefits. Free school is provided to the children. Housing is available on the plantation or in the “pueblo” nearby. Gauchos rule the ranch in the same way their fathers and grandfathers did. Fields are rotated to allow the natural cycle. Tall grass is left alone until it is cut and becomes fertilizer. Lady bugs and rheas are used for pest control. There is no irrigation – the fields are managed to maximize rainfall. At the ranch, horses have no shoes, trusting the hoof of an animal that has survived for millions of years. Birds of prey glide over the land. Even the dangerous viper, mortal if bitten by, is kept alive to control pests. Everywhere you look, harmony exists between nature and the necessities of production.
Sipping the bombilla, I close my eyes and there, in my mouth, I taste it. I taste the land, the soil, the nature, I taste it in its purest form. Much like the French and their wine, Mate is the deepest and most honest gesture of hospitality when receiving someone, it means – “I welcome you my friend and I want to share my land with you.” Now let me tell you about the beauty of my country!