12 February 2010

CREA - The Group Meeting

This week, I was invited to attend a CREA group meeting (CREA Posta Espinollos). About nine farming operations were represented. Husbands and wives were welcome. Most in the group spoke English, but the meeting was conducted in Spanish. Periodically, someone would translate for me. Not knowing Spanish was a limitation in that I missed a lot of the conversation. On the other hand, I was forced to pay close attention to facial expressions, body language, eye contact, etc.

After introductions, the group settled on the covered patio with coffee, yerba mate and pastries. For the first two hours, each person took turns updating the rest on their operations. Most had too much rain. As the morning progressed, we dodged the warming sun... moving chairs to the shade. There were no shorts at this meeting... this was business. But it was more than business. There was lots of laughter, joking, pointing and jumping into the conversation.

The group president is Maximo Uranga and it was his turn to host the meeting. While that meant Maximo provided the food, beverages and house, it also meant that Maximo had to present his business operations for the past year. He took about 90 minutes or so to review a booklet he put together for each person in the group. It included the financials for the last year, the projected financials for the coming year and the objectives for his business as well as his family. Yields, land in each crop and a graph of the past 13 years were also included to help each member understand Maximo's business.

After Maximo was finished, the group broke into two smaller groups and discussed Maximo's questions. Maximo and the CREA advisor, Juan Pablo, were not allowed to participate in the smaller groups. The details of the business and the problems addressed are to remain within the group, so I will not discuss them here. The topics related to farm business structure, economics and family. The smaller groups worked for about an hour on Maximo's questions. One person in each small group  wrote notes. After both small groups were finished, everyone met in one area again. One person from each of the smaller groups read the notes to Maximo. Again, I wish I knew Spanish. I could tell from the facial expressions that Maximo was both excited and nervous to receive the comments from the groups. It takes a lot of courage to take criticism from peers. This criticism is what improves everyone.

Once that was complete, they had a guest speaker talk about something of interest. In this case, I was the guest speaker. I hope it was of interest.

After that, the CREA group met alone (without Juan Pablo or me) to discuss institutional issues of the group. It was a very interesting day.

Maximo presents his business information to the rest of the CREA group.
The smaller groups discuss the questions of Maximo and other issues relevant to his operation.

Maximo receives the reports from the two small groups.

Manuel reads the notes from the small groups as Juan Pablo, the CREA advisor, records the comments.

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