Thursday, April 23, 2009

Goodbye to my friends in Choppca


Chopcca (145) (Medium)
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
My last day in Choppca I went to large festival with some of my friends from the village. As always I was the center of attention, being the only white guy in a crowd of thousands. We watched the horse races (suprisingly dangerous - as the horses run into the crowd and some people get trampled) and talked about their different potatoes one last time. I am incredibly inspired by their pride for their local culture and crop diversity. Once again I see how directly linked native crops and agricultural bioodiversity are with culture. Although Im getting exhausted of travelling, these people filed me with hope and joy again by feeding me, laughing with me, showing offf their potatoes, and teaching me the benefits of growing such an obscene diversity of potatoes, Oca, Ulluco, Quinoa, wheat, oats, fava beans, and more. Each farmer has a different story to tell, a different lesson to teach me, or a different colored potato for me to try! I will miss these people. Read More......

Potato Harvest


Chopcca (135) (Medium)
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
These are just a few of the varieties we harvested from one field. The daughtrer proudly assembled this pile for me to show off their varieties. She excitedly told me about each, how they were cooked, which was her favorite, and which was her sisters favorites.
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Children open up to me much easier than adults


Chopcca (130) (Medium)
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Oca harvest


Chopcca (129) (Medium)
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Oca harvest


Chopcca (128) (Medium)
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Potato Harvest


Chopcca (125) (Medium)
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
I am out of shape!
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Playing with children while harvesting


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Quinua!


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Womens meeting on Potato Diversity


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Amazing Valley


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Leaders of the village!


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Me with some friendly farmers


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
They got to see my white bum as I changed back into my clothes. Man you should have seen their faces!
An awesome lunch too! Arguably the best potatoes yet
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Frolicking through Potatoes all dressed up


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Oca harvest


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Tilling new land for potatoes


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
These guys are animals!
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Purple Papas!


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Peru Update

Hello everybody.
First of all. I posted all my photos to flickr. If you are bored or have time, you can acess them through the link to the right. The pics of this page just provide you a littles taste.
Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to check my stuff out. I am stuck on the internet today figuring out some plans for the rest of my year, money, plane flights, etc. Some of you may be dissapointed, but I have decided to go to Greece instead of Mexico. Its hard to explain my rationale, but after all year of studying other peoples cultures and traditions, I have become very inspired to learn about my own. My grandparents came from Greece and so I have decided to end my year by doing a pilgrimage back to the area where we are from and learning about my roots, ancient wheat varieties in Greece, and the state of agriculture there. I have already been in touch with some seed saving groups in greece and hope to find some of my family who is still farming! Yeah Greece! Yeah Peru!


I just got back from an amazing ten days staying with a rural village high in the Andes in Central Peru. I arrived in Ccasapata alone and confused after many days of bus rides. After much confusion, I ended up staying in the office of an NGO who is focused on reducing poverty through biodiversity (Yannapai) and improving farmers livelihood. Like many, they view biodviersity as the key to food security!
A great contact I made with the International Potato Center helped make arrangemnents for me to come to this area because they are known for their extensive potato diversity still being grown. There are over 400 varieties in that area alone. All families I spoke to grew atleast 10 varieties in a mixed field and some grew up to 140 or 200 varieties. The mixed fields or ¨chacros¨are truly stunning and I loved hearing about each variety from the old women and even the children - who knew the taste and use for all this diversity.

My first few days I really struggled with language barriers, being accepted in the community, etc. After a couple days I made my english translator leave because she was complaining so much - shes a city girl and we were lving pretty rough - no shower, no proper toilet, mud everywhere, cold nights, etc. After she left it was actually much better. People in the community got to know me and I had some incredible experiences. I did about 10 interviews, but then gave up saying I was a researcher and began to enjoy much more just walking and talking with people, visiting farms, attending meetings, eating every color of potato imaginable in crowded kitchens, etc.

I helped some people in the office with their research, helped a couple families harvesting potatoes (man am I out of shape) and just enjoyed observing the village life. It was a pretty remote area that it still very rich in traditional culture. People are very proud of their local tradtions - especially their dress and potato diversity. I ate so many different great potatoes - totally different than what we have in the states. The villagers really value the starchyness of the potatoes and complain that modern varieites or varieties grown with chemical fertilizers are very watery (very true!)

It was great just laughing with villagers and asking them all why the potato diversity is important. Once again, I saw that even these poor people value taste a lot in what they grow. The native varieties also resist pest and frost, need less fertilizer, have more flavor, and can be used for a variety of dishes. However, the most common answer was taste. I was asked by a couple people if I thought children would eat the same bland white potato every day? I guess not

Potatoes are an incredibly versatile crop. They can grow at sea level and at these high harsh altitudes! Some fields I visited were above 4,000 meters (over 12,500 feet above sea level). It was a challenge for mew to just walk into or out of these steep fields which have been farmed for millenia. Once again I loved hearing farmers traditional knowledge and seeing how scientists are working on improving it. There were great crop rotation systems and I really enjoyed learning about how they make Chuno - the freeze-dried potatoes. All the farmers had slightly different criteria for how they select potatoes for seed and store them. One farmer told me he slects potatoes with large beautiful gringo eyes like mine. Haha!
They dressed me up in their traditional garb and the last day I attended a large festival which was centered around horse races (pretty cool- but dangerous too).
Soo, each day was a challenge - but overall another great experience that forced me to make many independent decisions and taught me a lot about both seeds and myself!
I saw again how important native crop varieties and diversity is to the survival of farmers in harsh conditions or outside industrial agriculture.
My last day was my favorite as I got to work all day harvesting a mixed field of native potatoes. Every few feet revealed a new beautiful variety. It was like unearthing a new msterpiece the earth painted every few minutes. The kids played with me and helped all day (taking breaks to carry each other in potato sacks and throw dirt at me). The family was so excited to show me potatoes they had got from their ancestoras and tell me about each variety as it was unearthed. One little girl made a pile for me so that I could see the diversity. At the end she told me why she liked each one and which ones her sister didnt like or which ones made her strong or resisted frost.

This is just a quick random summary. I am still digesting all I learned and saw. Will hopefully write more soon. Im currently a bit lonely and sick of travelling but trying to embrace each day. Read More......

Me Dressed in traditional garb in a potato field!

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Beautiful CHildren


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Potato Fields - over 4000 Meters ASL


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Proud women with their chickens!


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Chicken Giveaway


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Chicken Giveaway


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Chakitaklia


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
The ancient Incan tool used for tilling the earth - said to be an incredibly effective tool, especially in steep areas like this where the mountains and shallow fertile soil prevents the use of tractors or animals
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A view of the village


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Experiment for Andean Weevil


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
Helping the NGo I was staying with in their study of Andean Weevil. Very intersting - this is an endemic pest which has only recently become a major problem. Many farmers spray insecticeds 2-3 time s a year to control it. I had no idea until I got here that pesticide posioning is extremely high in the Andes.
The improved varieties are much more susceptible to this pest and while they can yield more - many farmers told me that they need more fertilizer and more herbicide sprays. Some even believe that the outbreak of the Andean Weevil is directly linked to the introduction of modern potato varteties and their associated chemicals. It may not be the whole cause, but is a definite factor
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Sorry, I just love old women with Seeds


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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I love old women


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
A passionate old women in the village who grew over 80 potatoe varieties. She loved feeding me and kept telling me IU need to eat more potatoes! Hers were by far the best potatoes Ive ever had.
She also kept asking me where my eve was. This became a running joke in the village. Everyone that greeted mne would ask, √Ądam, donde esta eva?
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Beautiful Children


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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We must save our Potatoes!


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
We must save our Potatoes! They are a gift from our ancestors and we cannot survive without them! These potatoes are our culture and our livelihood!
a rough translation of his hour long speech.
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Meeting in Village


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Cold River


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
The river I tried to bathe in, but damn was it cold and the Peruvian women loved laughing at my white body
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Tarwi


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
Tarwi is a domesticated Lupine which has been grown in the Andes since Incan times or before. It is awesome to see the wild Lupines that these were developed from. This legume is a crucial part of Andean agriculture and all farmers know its value in crop rotation (restoring nitrogen). Tarwi is also incredibly high in Protein (they say higher than meat. I have never seen it outside Peru and it is a really cool plant.
It is said that the Incans and their predescessors in the area domesticated more plant species for agriculture than any other group in the history of the world (over 70 species!). If you are interested, there is a great book called, ¨The Lost Crop of the Incas¨
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CHopcca Village Stay


CHopcca Village Stay
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
My first morning in the village - view out my window
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Macchu Picchu Pics


Macchu Picchu Pics
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Me at Macchu Pichu


Macchu Picchu Pics
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
Damn, all this Quinua and Potatoes has made me strong!
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Andean Camels at Macchu Pichu


Macchu Picchu Pics
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Macchu Picchu Pics


Macchu Picchu Pics
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Macchu Pichu in the morning


Salkantay Trek
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Terraces of Macchu Pichu


Salkantay Trek
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
I loved closing my eyes and imagining what they looked like filled with potatoes, Quinua, corn, oca, ulluco, etc.
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Salkantay Trek


Salkantay Trek
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
Arriving at Macchu Pichu early in the morning after a damn hard climb up! Truly magical!
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Salkantay Trek


Salkantay Trek
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
From Glaciers to Jungle!
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Jersey boy in the Andes Yo!


Salkantay Trek
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Salkantay Trek


Salkantay Trek
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
My second favorite thing in the world behind seeds is mountains (an music)!
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Mara - Andean Biodviersity


Peru -Cusco Area
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
This is a photo of a few of the products which Mara is making in order to promote and protect Andea Biodiversity. They primarily work woith Andean grains - Quinua, Kiwicha (amnaranthus caudatus), and Kanihua. They also work with Andean tubers, fava beans. and corn. On top os their research and product development they also help with government nutrition and school lunch programs. Their is so much potential for these crops!
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Moray - Incan Terraces


Peru -Cusco Area
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
This is an amazing ancient Incan Site. After much research it is believed that these terraces were used as an agricultural experimentation for the Incans. Seeds were brought from around the Andes and were tested and acclimatized here. It is an incredibly intricate building and truly awe-inspiring to see how much work the Incans put into developing their agricultural technology. You can really feel the temperature difference between the top and the bottom and the different sites! There is also a great amount of symbolism and spirituality associated with this site.
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9 Month Report!

Hello all!
Pasted below is my 9 month Watson report. Surprisingly, the Watson staff loved this report.
For those of you who read the manifesto below, this report is similar to that but with a bunch of additions. I was in a rush so much of it was copy and pasted. Hope you all are well! Adam

9 Month Report

It is a calm rainy morning in Cusco, Peru. The coca tea warms my throat and the Andean rain brings a feeling of freshness to the world. Once again, I am amazed that another three months has passed. Time has flown by, but it seems like ages ago when I wrote the last report in a crowded Bangkok restaurant. Since then I have been in Ethiopia, Canada, and Peru following my dream around the world. I left the states only 9 months ago a confused college graduate. My passion in life was certain, but I still struggled to figure out how I fit into this crazy world. Since then I have seen 6 new countries and travelled to many places I never dreamed of. Put plainly, my life has revolved around seeds: their propagation, importance, diversity, power, symbolism, meaning in different cultures, and use. The hope I have found through the seed-saving movement worldwide has been the core of my year and is something I could write for days about. I often feel like I’m overflowing with hope and respect for the power held in a seed.

However, the Watson Fellowship is about so much more than just my research. These 9 months of independent travel have given me a chance to step back and examine what my life is about. I have come to see that we learn the most through challenges. If I had simply stayed with my friends in the USA I would be comfortable and happily settled now. Instead, I have been immensely challenged both emotionally and physically. Giving up practically everything you know and love to travel the world alone is not an easy thing to do. There are times when I felt so alone it seemed as if no one in the world even knew I existed. Oddly, these feelings often came when in a city surrounded by millions of other people. Nights alone in Addis Ababa were tough as I couldn’t eat dinner without having crowds stare, beggars followed me at each turn, and young men tried to sell me anything you could imagine. I was a white face in a sea of black faces, unable to speak the local language.

There were other times I felt so constantly bombarded by people I desperately wanted to just run away and scream at the top of my lungs. There were also nights when I cried myself to sleep after hours of explosive diarrhea and vomiting (I never knew it was possible to do both at the same time!). I have spoken with farmers dying of malaria and felt children pulling on my pants to get just a piece of my bread. Through these challenges and many more I have been pushed to reexamine what my boundaries are. I have become comfortable in my own skin and have learned what it means to feel strongly out of place. Most powerfully, I have come to see the many similarities between peoples and cultures around the world. I now believe John Steinbeck was right when he said that we don’t have our own soul, but just a small piece of the much larger soul of humanity.

My journey has led me to gain a deep respect and appreciation for the human spirit in its many forms. I have shared laughs with chemical salesmen, beggars, elite landowners, scientists, farmers, racists, and everyone in between. I still subconsciously judge people based on the way in which I was raised, but now really enjoy looking past individuals harsh exteriors to see their human spirit shining within. We all are yearning to live a happy life, eat good food, find love, and gain some sort of respect or admiration. Our values and ways of living are defined in very different ways. However, there is a similar thread which links us all together on this crazy rock we call earth. This realization came to me one day in a busy market in Ethiopia. I was forced to sit down and laugh hysterically. All of a sudden, as I stared out at the mob of faces I saw that we were one and the same! I felt the anger of a drunken man inside me as he yelled uncontrollably. I saw myself in the rich businessmen pushing their way through the crowd and I felt the hunger of a desperate beggar deep in my stomach. Colors and defined faces faded away. They were replaced by a blurred mix of love, hate, devotion, dreams, and desires. Since then, I have felt content to stop searching for some huge esoteric meaning to life.

I am beginning to embrace to simple honesty of who I am. Throughout my whole life I have spent insane amounts of energy trying to impress others or define myself in relation to those around me. I was never cool per say, but I was the “compost man”, the “garden manager”, the club president, the environmental activist, etc. I hid my negative qualities and strived for some image of what I thought I should be – something that people would love and respect. Well, this year I have been away from all those who love and respect me. As a result, I have seen that I don’t have to work to impress people, it’s more important to be happy and healthy.

Many of the places I have visited this year have taught me that life is simpler than we have made it. Basic happiness is as much a part of living as any “success” we have been trained to strive for. I have become confident that I will never change the world. An individual can only do a small bit, but through our connections the actions ripple out and affect many others. Perhaps it is more important to live each day to the fullest, be joyous, and give respect to those around you than to work constantly to change the world. Life is fleeting at best and we must enjoy each minute we are given on this wonderful planet. After years of being fed depressing information on globalization and the state of our world, I have now benefited immensely from the globally connected nature of our planet.

The diverse people I have connected with \have shown me what it means to live a good life. We will never go back to some ideal simple existence that may have existed in the past. However, we will continue to grow and adapt (like our local seeds). The universal nature of humanity will shine on as it has for so many generations. In times of need, leaders will step forward and movements will spread. I do not believe humanity is on a course destined for destruction. This is one possibility, but there is another path I see. Communities around the world will unite and develop local solutions to solve our many problems. Once again, food will be seen as essential to culture and life. Authentic diversity will spread and remind us all what it means to be connected to a place. We will harvest the power of the sun, create urban farms, invest in children instead of war, and learn from each other through mutual respect. Yes, this is an ideal dream. Nonetheless, this possibility is just as possible as worldwide destruction is! I am not saying all will be perfect. This year has taught me to be happy with imperfection and to embrace uncertainty. Armies will fight, lovers will come and go, money will be lost, land will be destroyed, and sickness will spread. But, I believe in the end we will recognize the power of food, community, and the basic necessities of life.

The Ethiopian people have shown me that there is no reason to live without hope! I stayed in areas in which farmers had faced two wars, droughts, and famines. However, they still celebrated their coffee ceremonies, danced together, relished good food, and laughed over local liquors. Hope shines in the eyes of Ethiopian farmers who trade seeds and develop new varieties which adapt to their land. It shines in the Thai children as they show me their school gardens, the happy seed sellers in Canada, the resilience of the Dukhobor community in British Columbia, and in the mountain villages that keep our ancient diversity alive. Around the world people are uniting in their awakening that we cannot continue “business as usual.” They are not just sitting back and complaining about all that’s wrong with the world. They are uniting to work for a positive solution that enables us to live a joyous life.

Ethiopia was a month filled with crop diversity, cultural diversity, passionate farmers, skipping with children, some vomiting, and plenty of good laughs with fellow seed savers. I was challenged on many levels, but left the country even more motivated and inspired than when I arrived. Through my travels and many interviews I have seen that diversity in crops is directly linked with health and diversity of human cultures. The crops and their resilient seeds have co-evolved with the cultures and eco-systems of their respective regions. When we lose crop varieties from a region this is not just a biological loss, but a loss of cultural systems, human livelihood, and farmers freedom. We lose not just an inventory of plant materials or genes, but an incredible storehouse of knowledge of how to grow and use the plants. The knowledge comes as a result of generations of men and women experimenting, selecting crops for their diverse needs, building on the knowledge on their forefathers, and passing the skills to their children. Each farming family has diverse criteria they use to determine how to spread their risk, produce enough food on marginal conditions, and satisfy local cultural needs.

Our food today did not just appear in the wild, it exists because of the hard work of so many farmers. Ethiopia is a center of crop diversity for durum wheat, barley, sorghum, coffee, and chickpeas. For years we have taken seeds from these people to develop our modern agriculture. Now, many are fighting to keep the seeds in farmer’s hands. The Ethiopian famers blew me away with their agricultural practices and complex local seed systems. In a country where nearly 90% of the population is farmers, agriculture is the central part of life. The power of farmer’s ancient knowledge can be seen quite evidently in an Ethiopian highland field with its extremely infertile, dry rocky soil that is filled with a diversity of colorful crops. These crops satisfy families nutritional, economic, gastronomic, alcoholic, and spiritual needs. Other tourists I met in Ethiopia could only talk about the extreme poverty and flies on children’s faces. However, the memories that stick out in my mind are of colorful dances, joyous families, and diverse fields. Ethiopia showed me once again how important diversity and seed saving is not just for survival, but also for community sufficiency and the enjoyment of life.

As a whole, the past 3 months were especially educational for me because I experienced so many drastic transitions. Flying straight from Ethiopia to Canada threw my body and emotions upside down. My first night in Vancouver I woke frequently to dreams of dry Ethiopian fields. For days I relished the hot water and flushing toilets, but felt disgusted by the excessive consumption. People fought in Addis Ababa over 5 cent bread while people in Canada dropped 8 dollars on a beer or 25 dollars on a breakfast. How can we explain these extreme differences? Why are some born with so much privilege while others are born with nothing? How can so many of the rich be mean and unhappy while many Ethiopian villagers in mud huts can be so kind and joyous? These questions and my withdrawal from Ethiopian coffee left me sleepless for days. However, I was cheered up my first weekend in BC by Victoria’s Seedy Saturday (nearly 2,000 people in attendance).

Seedy Saturdays began twenty years ago in Vancouver. The idea of the event was to bring together people from various fields to work together for the common goal of conservation of open pollinated seed. There are now over 70 Seedy Saturdays or Sundays in Canada and the idea has even spread to Britain. In my month in Canada I got to attend six Seedy Saturdays. At first I was very confused over how to apply all the lessons I learned this year to North America. However, I was continually inspired by the local food and local seed movement in Western Canada. The concept of food security is taking North America by storm and awareness is spreading to the issue of seeds. At each event I interviewed seed sellers, chatted with gardeners, swapped seeds and shared stories of my travels. Aside from attending these amazing events I lived with a passionate seed saver and gardener who runs “Seeds of Victoria.” She reminded me of the importance of seed diversity for gardeners in North America and taught me how to run a small-scale seed business that benefits the local food system. Other seed sellers like Dan Jason inspired me with their stories of community seed banks and small-scale grain growing. During my last week in Canada I travelled to the Kootenays where I learned about the Russian Dukhobor community and their heritage seeds. I also spoke at two seedy events and people were very inspired.

In my first three weeks in Peru I have gotten tours of the Centro Internacional de Las Papas, visited many markets, tasted potatoes prepared in ways I never dreamed of, frolicked through Quinoa fields, and learned about the massive amount of native crop diversity here in the Andes. Once again, this locally adapted crop diversity is very important for marginal farmers because of their adaptability, pest and disease resistance, consistent yield without expensive inputs, taste, and balanced nutrition. The range of colors and varieties of potatoes in one field is truly astounding. There is beauty, health, and stability in diversity.

The farmers and activists I have met continue to show me that the power is in our hands to make change for the better. Yes, there are challenges. However, there are no excuses as to why we can’t keep our hope alive. The future is ours to grab and I see mine filled with seeds, healthy food, dance parties, friendship, love, and community. I do not need to change the world, I just need to improve the lives of some around me and have fun while doing it. Read More......

So many Potatoes!!


Peru Markets
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Peru Markets


Peru Markets
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Peru Markets


Peru Markets
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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Oca


Peru Markets
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer
Oh how I love learning about new crops I never heard of before!
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Peru Markets


Peru Markets
Originally uploaded by forbesfarmer

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