After our stay in Huehuecoyotl we traveled 60 km east to work with Tomás in Tepetlixpa. Tomás is a traditional campesino, a rural farmer, just like his father before him. But unlike the vast majority of his peers, Tomás doesn’t use chemicals on his crops. Nor does he buy seed from Dupont, Monsanto, or any other Agribusiness. He saves his best seed from each season to replant, not only preserving biodiversity but also allowing evolution, and the market, to develop the best crop possible. Everything he cultivates is organic: native corn, wheat, avocados, pears, and vegetables. Unfortunately, demand for organic produce is low in México. Tomás didn´t choose this lifestyle for its profitability but to live and eat according to his beliefs.
He was described to us as an elf, a spirit of the land. Our second day on the farm he took us on a hike up to one of his parcels, weaving through a labyrinth of corn and tomato fields. Descriptions of Tom Bombadil flashed into my mind as he chanted and bounded ahead of us. We struggled to keep pace as he romped through familiar terrain. I don’t know if Tomás has heard of J.R.R. Tolkien or The Lord of the Rings, but the two fit the same description: “Tom Bombadil is a spry fellow, with a quick, playful wit. He speaks in a rhyming whimsical way: ‘Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo! Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow! Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!’  He has a jolly, carefree attitude, and very little seems to concern him. He sometimes refers to himself in the third person, as if simultaneously weaving his own epic narrative, even as he lives it.” Never slowing down his work nor showing signs of fatigue, Tomás sang and joked throughout the long days on the farm. He regularly embodied a distinct nickname based on his mood: Tom-andante (Tom the traveler), Tom-mastuerzo (his favorite edible flower & garnish), or most common, Tom-maísito (little Tom of the corn). Rather than rhyme like Bombadil, he would recite sayings in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec, or hum traditional songs of the land.
In The Lord of the Rings, Bombadil’s name means “Ancient” or “Belonging to the distant past”. Bombadil is The Eldest, he remembers the first raindrop, and the first acorn. Tolkien says “even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one…some things should remain mysterious.” In Tepetlixpa, Tomás was our enigma. A rural campesino with a Master’s degree in Agriculture (he studied in Mexico, and studied abroad in Brasil and at Harvard), he forsook his peers to the land-abusing, profit-driven doctrine of industrial agriculture and chose instead to farm with horse-drawn plows and machetes. He aspires to be like the escarabajo, a beetle known for its decomposition abilities, leaving the soil healthier than he found it.
Our time in Tepetlixpa was a chance to learn from the master – from corn and beans to carrots and arugula. We got to do it all: tilling, planting, weeding, transplanting, fertilizing, harvesting, seed saving, preserving, composting, eco-building, and, most importantly eating the most wholesome diet we’ve ever had.
The Farm in a Slideshow: