Thanks so much for your thoughtful post, QiMom! I would have seen it sooner had we not been in MX, visiting my in-laws. Very valuable information... And everything you say about the value of word-of-mouth makes sense, but it's such a hard reality for me to accept! The trouble is that we have specific financial concerns (i.e., how will we continue to support my ILs and educate my DC if we move out of the US?) that we'd love to know will be "okay" in spite of a move across the border. If we didn't have kids or aging parents, it would be so much easier (or at least less scary) to dive into life in MX w/o a clear roadmap already drawn up!
Re: Mexican agriculture, I would warn everyone here about trusting too deeply that small-scale campesinos in Mexico are still growing food the "natural way." This is what I thought the first couple of times I went down and visited my DH's family in Gro. (all of whom farm). The fact is that they, themselves, would claim that they still used "natural" methods. When I talked about work I did in the States with "organic" ag, they would claim that that is what they had always done and would always do. However, by the time I came for a third visit (and especially when we went down to live for a year), it became clear that small-scale farmers in my DH's region are actually practice a highly chemically-intensive manner of growing crops and they are perfectly comfortable using copious amounts of pesticide to protect fruits.
It hasn't been this way for long. When my DH was growing up, everyone in his pueblo still grew corn/beans/calabasas in a manner that revitalized the soil (i.e. through companion planting) and they respected that fields needed fallow time to rejuvinate. Crop rotation was standard. Now, a system of corn subsidies and govn't-funded fertilizer programs for farmers big and small have pretty much assured that nobody is choosing "the natural way" anymore. The result has been devastating monoculture farming (my own FIL has now grown corn-just corn-on the same field for 13 years in a row--you can only do this by adopting a highly unnatural, chemical-intensive system of ag). It's also worth noting that a good number of pesticides and herbicides that are still used regularly in Mexico are prohibited for use in the U.S.
In any event, there are a choice few things grown in my DH's pueblo that are still not sprayed, mostly in the orchards (i.e., bananas, lemons and ciruelas), but mangos, oranges, and field crops are definitely sprayed and with virtually no concern for potential health risks related to these toxins.
What I think is really interesting about this is how, to this day, DH's family calls their style of farming "natural." I guess it's because they still do it by hand? Because they're standing out there in the field sprinkling the fertilizer on the ground and spraying the weeds rather than sitting in a tractor or spraying from an airplane?
Sorry for the rant--it's just that I so wish I could trust that buying at local markets in Mexico would be akin to "buying organic," but my experience suggests that this just isn't always so!
Originally Posted by QiMom
Mexico is full of ex-pats with young kids. Not sure why they aren't out there blogging or posting threads on forums about it. Perhaps they are too busy enjoying the sunshine! I have lived in Mexico for 15 years and for the last 4 of them have been an AP/Waldorf mum of 1. Mexico is very much a place where things should be taken day by day. Trying to plan ahead is rather like swimming upstream here, just doesn't go with the flow of life. You will find once here that there are lots of foreign families. From my own 15 years of experience, many stay temporarily, that is a few years, and head back home. Those who stay longer rarely stick to the ex-pat communities and perhaps that is why such online forums are a barren wasteland. At the same time, this is a land where word of month is the best way to acquire whatever help or information you need. If you want to know about renting property, start asking around in the local stores rather than doing a search online. If you want to know about which schools are good, don't attempt to track down online reviews, rather ask around (alot!). This is also a place where people will attempt to answer your questions in order to help you, and if that means offering not very accurate answers, then they will give preference to helping you rather than assuring the answers are accurate! One thing that definitely affects the type of experience you might having when moving to Mexico is where your income will come from. Many expats organize life so as to move to Mexico with a foreign income still flowing into the bank account. The experience is quite different when you actually come and live on pesos. Also, within Mexico there is plenty of variety. The further south you go, the more you encounter the indigenous flavour of the land, such as in Oaxaca. Climates vary greatly. Landscapes too. There is indeed a lot of variety in Mexico. As for homeschooling and organic markets... homeschooling is a new thing here, still in its infancy. It is legal, but culturally there is an expectation for kids to enter the school system. Indeed, many of the homeschoolers are foreigners. There is also a fairly strong community of Christian families homeschooling which includes many Mexicans. Organic markets exist where I live (Oaxaca) and I think you'll find they exist in many places but again are best located by asking around. When in doubt, resort to the word-of-mouth strategy!