A plea for help from the Vanilla Queen

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Patricia Rain is an international vanilla specialist and anthropologist who has worked for years in Veracruz, Mexico. Patricia gave Budget Travel invaluable help during its recent report on vanilla's sexy history, Romancing the Bean.

Patricia, who blogs about All Things Vanilla, has just reminded us that our reporter visited the vanilla fields of Mexico last spring—long before Hurricane Dean swept through and destroyed up to 90 percent of citrus, bananas, coffee, cacao, vanilla, and sugar cane exported to the U.S.

Tourism to the vanilla fields of Veracruz is still available, despite Dean's damage. The tours described in the story are mostly still worth taking. And your tourist dollars can still help the local economy.

But Patricia has asked us to pass along the following plea for help:

"Unless we help the farmers with basic needs, such as roofing, they will all come to the US, most often illegally, desperate for work. If you visit the website of The Vanilla Company, you can learn about local efforts to help get galvanized roofing for the poor and indigenous farmers there.

There is a way to help the locals, too, if you wish to do so. The Vanilla Company has an account set up for disaster relief. Checks can be made to Valley Presbyterian Church, 945 Portola Rd Portola Valley, CA, 94028, 650/851-8282. In the memo on the check it should say: ITFN Disaster Relief. Thank you for your help."

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