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COLUMN: Life is a beach

“Life is a Beach…” was the title of the e-mail Susan wrote home to our family recently.

“Life is a Beach…” was the title of the e-mail Susan wrote home to our family recently.

Nice take off on the original. Life is good here, and it brings optimism to face challenges back home.

I have been sitting on the beach a lot here in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, thinking about ranching and farming in the Cariboo and making casual observations about farming and ranching here and the economy in general.

We were last here seven years ago.

At that time the government was initiating clean up and recycling programs to enhance the attractiveness to tourists.

To us a minor miracle has happened.

The city is clean and the sewage and fish smells are almost non existent.

The same goes for the local indoor market which stretches over three blocks.

The farm economy was faltering then as the bottom had fallen out of the coconut oil market.

Much of the farmland had converted to palm trees.

But the market for oil had suffered because of those many consumers  now afraid of saturated fats.

Fortunately, even for health reasons, the fear has abated somewhat and now  you can see renovated coconut plantations (orchards) everywhere.

Papaya and corn are other popular crops.

In the past 10 years, the cattle population in the Zihuatenajo region has fallen from about 12,000 head to about 5,000.

Better meat cuts for tourists’ taste are imported from other areas of Mexico and Brazil. In Canada and the Cariboo in that time period we lost about 30 per cent of our production.

According to the local regional website the cattle economy is in need of innovative solutions which might include farming practices that supports the finishing on the local lush grasses.

There isn’t much grain in sight in the nearby fields.

The word in the neighbouring town of Pettatlan is that the local farmers are doing quite well because of the diversity of crops that they raise and because they produce so much of their own food.

A slight downside of the visit is remembering the first visit which was with two of my siblings and their partners.

One of them, my brother Leonard, has since passed on.

We have him to thank him for introducing us to this wonderful place.

Many good memories live large here.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.