Guest post by Alphonso Rincón
Last week, Ogallala Commons Board Member Alphonso Rincón shared how he first became connected to OC, how OC is intertwined with his own organization, FACE; and what he most enjoys about his work with OC. This week, Alphonso shares a little more with us about the impact Ogallala Commons has had upon him, and goals he has for our organization.
One of Alphonso Rincón’s four grandchildren, Neva Rincón, making butter at the Rincón family farm using the churn her late great-grandmother, Maria Rincón, and Alphonso used to make butter from fresh cream. During the 1950’s, Maria Rincón would sell butter, eggs, and “queso blanco” to families in Seguin’s Mexican American neighborhoods.
I grew up, and still live, on the Rincón family farm; Beto and my two other children, Cenaida and Miguel, spent their early childhood on the farm as well. I had implemented farm-wide soil conservation practices on the farm in the 1980s, but had to switch to part-time farming by the early 1990s. I became resigned to the fact that small-scale farming had been plowed under by corporate and large-scale agriculture. The farming neighbors who were my late parents’ peers and who I had I grown up knowing, were gone and their farms sold and/or subdivided. This loss of a farming community reinforced my resignation.
I scaled back my farm operation from a small farrow-to-finish hog operation and row cropping to leasing most of the arable land and sticking with a small commercial cow-calf operation and gardening. I turned to “in town” jobs to make a living and but also devoted large amounts of time to civic affairs and joined nonprofit/ community-based organizations. I became very active in the Mexican American arts, journalism, and joined Seguin’s League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 682, 1990-96. I moved to the DFW area but was back at the farm within 2 years but began my work with fathers in education that took me throughout Texas and the nation.
My relationship with OC has elements of synchronicity: it has “updated” me on how such challenges as those of a depleting Ogallala Aquifer, the decline of many small rural communities, concern for youth leaving their communities, mobility’s erosion of a sense of “place,” and health and food justice issues are converging. In effect, these changes raise the viability and necessity of such things as small scale agriculture, small-scale(rural) entrepreneurs, fighting for the retention of youth in small communities, and re-connecting children, youth, and the public to the land and nature.
Personally, OC has connected me and my farm and my family’s farm legacy with a movement of hope and leadership for what they have stood for since close to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution — and the Mexican Revolution for that matter. Furthermore, it just so happened that the LULAC Council for which I provided leadership in the early 1990s, has initiated a community garden that is in a low-income, “food desert,” in Seguin. Next door to the community garden is the Teatro de Artes de Juan Seguin Mexican American Arts Center/Studio for which I provided leadership in the early 1990s and where Beto began dancing at age 4.
The LULAC Community Garden has served as the site for at least two OC/LULAC internships. Teatro has served as a partner in the OC/LULAC 682 “veggie arts” summer camps, lead in part, by none other than Beto, my son, under the supervision of Mr. Ricardo Guerra, a LULAC officer who I worked with in the 1990s. In 1991, LULAC 682 was LULAC Council of the Year in Texas. Yesterday, we learned that Beto’s first attempt at “writing a grant” in collaboration with Mr. Guerra and the support of OC allies and local organizations, was one of five in the nation to be awarded. Thus we are making a national footprint. These are the impacts of my work with OC on my “nonprofit volunteer” side going back to the 1990s; but my relationship with OC has also provided a model that helps me better understand my own FACE mission and models through the concept of the commons. I can go on this point, but I think this might be getting too long for a blog. And finally, my son’s interest in food justice and growing food makes our family farm experiences and legacy assets and inspiration for his continued development and contributions to OC and the commons in general.
As I look to the future, my goal for Ogallala Commons is to continue learning from the conversations, meetings, and experiences it offers to become a more effective and creative participant in its growth and success. I believe deeply in the power and “truth” in the notion of the commons as a term absolutely essential to the assessment of who we are, what we see, and how we proceed to meet the social challenges of our time. I value the way OC addresses an issue such as the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer in a systemic, sustained manner over the years, strategically seeking the right partners. This is possible due to the leadership embodied by Dr. Darryl Birkenfeld, who is very well prepared to provide the thoughtful leadership required and also by the various members of the OC Board. I also value the sense of humor that surfaces often in the OC activities and meetings.
You can learn more about Alphonso by reading his OC Board Member profile, visiting FACE’s website http://fathersactive.com/, or following him on Twitter https://twitter.com/FathersActive.