When the rooster calls, everyone knows it’s time to get up. Because of the hot Caribbean weather, most of the daily work is done in the early morning. What does it take to make ends meet in the middle of northern Colombia?
I had the privilege of accompanying my host family to their small chicken farm about an hour and a half outside of the city of Barranquilla. There, I met a 9-year-old boy, Santiago, who was staying with his grandparents at the farm where they work. I received a wonderful tour from Santi where I got to experience many of the aspects of rural farm life. We saw many of the fruits and vegetables that are grown: pineapple, papaya, yucca, mango, star fruit, and plantain. Every finca (ranch) not only provides products to sell to the market, but they also provide the necessities of life for their residents. Everything they eat is home grown and provided by the farm, besides the occasional trip into town. The people here work to provide the life that keeps them and their families going for years to come.
Through their small businesses, they provide a small living for some of life’s luxuries, such as primary education for children and some small personal treasures. I followed the complete life cycle of these chickens, from hatchling to the market, and this happens to be one of the fastest turnovers when it comes to meat products, lasting only 35-40 days. Paired with its relatively inexpensive cost, no wonder chicken has always been a staple of cuisine around the world.
One of the difficulties of agriculture has always been transportation and storage of goods. For many of these small farms, they survive entirely off the local market, where a chicken can be prepared, sold, and eaten all in the same day. Each morning, the process begins with the preparation of chickens to be sold that day. Afterwards, they were placed into bags and then into yellow sacks to be transported in the back of the farm vehicle.
After arriving to the main highway that traverses the never-ending forest, we met a vendor on a small motorbike waiting to pick up the goods for the day. Each day, they are loaded onto the motorbike and driven into town to be sold. I was left baffled at the manner in which these chickens were transported. These were not light bags of chicken, yet somehow this vendor managed to tie in one large bag behind seat of the motor and load the other laying down in between the handlebars, right on top of the speedometer. Apparently, speed limits are not that important in the middle of nowhere. How did he make it to town without falling over? I suppose I may never know. That takes a certain level of skillset.
I left that weekend on the finca with a greater appreciation for the dedication and hard work it takes to run a farm each day. It is not an easy life, but as I spoke with the people here, I could see the fulfillment and joy they experienced. I was happy to meet and spend time with some of the most down to earth, humble, and kind people I have ever met. Regardless of where one lives, it is the human experience to survive. We make a living through whichever means possible. And though these unique experiences, we seek joy and fulfillment in our journey.