For Miguel Cervantes working at B Street Farm is more than just a job, it’s a lifestyle.
Anyone who has visited the farm before would be hard pressed not to notice the bustling figure of the caretaker as he runs around assisting students or fulfilling any number of tasks that are a part of his job.
“Here, grab a chicken,” he said, plucking up a full grown hen and handing it over. If there are extra hands on deck, he will make use of them.
But it’s been a long journey for Cervantes to get to this point.
Cervantes was born in Mexico City, the oldest of three boys. His father left the family when he was young so he had no choice but to leave as well. He moved to the United States in 1985 to find a job so he could better support his family. He was 20 at the time. In 1989 he made his way to Oregon and ten years after that Cervantes was working at Pacific.
He started off at the university as a landscape and garbage technician, but even then Cervantes still had a connection to the farm in some form or other.
“I used to bring recycled materials over here and see if the farm had any use of it, instead of throwing it away first,” said Cervantes. Those materials were anything ranging from old plastic chairs, to science benches, to worn tables that could be left outside. He points over to an eclectic hodgepodge of furniture and knickknacks, “Those are all from me.”
And although it has been sometime since he has left his family, Cervantes has big dreams of returning home and using what he has learned in the States to create a new life there.
His ultimate goal is to become an ordained minister and start a non-profit permaculture institute for orphans in Mexico City. He wants to teach them how to grow their own food and become more connected with what they’re eating. He hopes that if he’s able to get it going, other Pacific students would have the opportunity to help as well.
“It’s just an idea right now,” said Cervantes. “But I do think it’s possible. I just need my degree and the credibility of an institution first.”
And he’s on his way to accomplishing that. Because not only is Cervantes an employee of Pacific, he is also a non-traditional student as well. He sang in the Pacific choir for ten years and was pursuing a music major until four years ago when he switched to permaculture after his transfer to B Street Farm. He is now a senior and has this year left before he completes his degree.
Many would say that he is driven, but for Cervantes learning about permaculture is more of a passion than anything else.
“Are you going to study for class?” he asks Leda Glastonbury, a Pacific senior who also works at B Street Farm for work study, before she completes her shift.
“Miguel you’re always studying,” she replies.
“He’s so open to learning new things,” said Glastonbury. “Anyone who knows him can see that he loves what he’s doing and he loves sharing his knowledge with people.”
Cervantes even knows already what he wants to do for his senior project.
Currently the university won’t let non Pacific students or staff use B Street Farm without signing a liability form first. This limits the amount of community people that are allowed to come to the property. He said that his main goal of the project is to get the concept of permaculture out to the whole community.
“I was told I can only hold one event, but I have a whole calendar set up,” said Cervantes. “I’m hoping that if one is successful we can do the rest.”
A perfect example of why Cervantes wants to do this arrived while he was giving his tour of the farm. A group from Adelante Mujeres, which is an organization that trains and educates low-income Latina women in Forest Grove, arrived at the farm. Consequently, this group does not have signed permission to be on B Street Farm property. Cervantes didn’t turn them away though. He showed them around and shared what happens at the farm with them. To the women’s surprise and delight he also brought out a baby lamb to show them how it is fed. Before they left he made sure to get them the liability form.
Cervantes admitted that he was nervous the whole time Adelante Mujeres was there. He said he kept thinking maybe someone would show up and he would get in trouble for having them on the property.
“For me the concept of permaculture is that it is something that needs to be shared,” said Cervantes. “We need to open our eyes and see that this farm should not be self serving, that’s not the purpose of permaculture. We shouldn’t be alienating people.”
Cervantes said that the university has a beautiful mission statement, he just wished it could be practiced more.
For now however, Cervantes will continue his work as the B Street Farm caretaker sharing his knowledge with other students and working toward his ultimate goal of returning back to Mexico.
“There’s a lot of things you can learn from the land and that I’ve learned from being here,” said Cervantes. “Working here is a labor of love.”