This week has been wild. I survived my first time traveling solo in Latin America and made it to my hostel in Cusco without any problems.  I even made some friends in the hostel! I met up with my fellow intern Viviana for dinner (Alpaca steak and pizza) in Cusco. I went to bed feeling a little nervous for the next day but proud of my accomplishments so far.

Adjusting to a new family

The next day I met with Viviana and Chris to go pick up Anna from the airport. I was nervous that it would be awkward but luckily we all got along really well. Driving into the Sacred Valley I was struck by the lucia dishesinsane beauty of the mountains surrounding us. The dramatic landscape helped to calm my nerves. One of my biggest concerns going into the program was the living situation. I knew that amenities would be basic and that I would be living with a host family, but after my experience in Chile living in a host family consisting of one older woman, I was worried that I would be lonely. I was really excited to learn that I would be living with the other interns and in such a large host family. The experience so far has been wonderful- Maritza and Lucho are very sweet and accommodating. They love learning about our lives and telling us the history that surrounds the Sacred Valley. I loved playing Spot It with them and seeing their playful sides. This house is never quiet- Lucia is always yelling about something and the radio is always playing weird oldies or Peruvian music, but I love the energy and the friendly vibes from this family.

Lucia’s favorite pastime- doing the dishes.


Old insecurities

chard days work

All in a chard day’s work.

After my nerves about the living conditions were assuaged, my old fears about my own physical capabilities started to return. Before Calca I had no experience farming- let alone at this high of an altitude. I knew that the program would be physically demanding but I was nervous about my own abilities. I was a chubby kid growing up, and to this day a small part of me still feels as though I don’t have the physical capabilities to handle intense work like this. I know that the only way I can overcome this insecurity is to prove it wrong again and again. Overall I’m really proud of the work I’ve done so far in Calca.





I am bad with children but good with dogs

dogsOne of the things that I’ve been loving about this program is the insane abundance of cute, friendly dogs. It seems so trivial- here I am having this great cultural experience and I’m happy that there’s a dog on the farm? But honestly having Leroy and the pack of dogs that greet us when we come to the office and the puppies living in our backyard just makes me feel more at ease here in Calca. Kids are another story. Going into the lesson plan I was nervous- not only because I had no teaching experience but because I had no kid experience. However, all of my nerves were calmed once we left Rayampata and immediately five or six children flocked to me to hold my hand for the entire walk up to the farm. Friday morning was super fun for me – more fun than I ever thought teaching a bunch of 8-year olds how to compost could be. I felt seriously overjoyed afterwards because I felt as though the kids had accepted me and looked up to me. It made me feel on top of the world.



Quinoa harvesting

quinoa harvest

Kati is a 14-year old girl who came to teach us how to separate quinoa seeds from the chafe- that unwanted plant material that still sticks around after harvesting.  I was shocked when one afternoon she stayed with us to sift quinoa even though it was pouring rain outside and we were stuck in the dark, cold shed. She helped us sift for a few hours without a single complaint. 14-year-old Nikki never would have been so patient. This photo is awesome and encapsulates everything I hoped that this experience would be. That gorgeous, golden quinoa made us so happy because we had worked so hard to harvest it and were left with a truly beautiful product.  I hope that this theme – the happiness that comes when you create something amazing- continues throughout the duration of my time here.



My love affair with América Latina

                I’ll be honest- a lot of the reason why I chose to do this internship was so that I could stay in Latin America and continue to allow the disorganized chaos of this entire continent teach me new things about myself. I loved my time in Chile, but am trying very hard to keep this a separate experience. I have a feeling that I’m about to grow a lot over the next 9 weeks. I thought I would come out of this internship with stronger arm muscles, better Spanish and more knowledge about farming, but now I’m realizing that this is going to be a mental and spiritual journey about challenging myself and throwing myself into uncomfortable situations and allowing myself to swim rather than being scared that I’ll sink. I have a feeling that some really special things are going to happen for me in the Sacred Valley and, although not without some nervousness, I’m ready to embrace all of it.


My new home.


Often our farm updates focus just on the work we do within the physical space of the farm. But there’s much more to the demo farm project than just that. With our recent ecological certification, we’re starting to look more towards markets for selling our produce. For about the last year, on and off we’ve attended local, ecological ferias on the weekend where producers join together to sell vegetables and products such as honey, jams, grains, etc.

Through these markets we began to realize that there are a handful of motivated ecological/organic producers looking for even more robust outlets for their products. Some of these producers aren’t even selling in the ecoferias at all. That’s where the agriculture team of Team Peru comes in. They’re working with us to see if there is a more robust market for such producers (including ourselves) and if so, what models make the most sense (i.e. selling to restaurants, weekly veggie boxes, a local market stand, etc.). As we explore the possibilities, AASD and Team Peru are continuing to attend ecoferias and talk to as many people as possible from the suppliers to the consumers and everyone in between.

To really get what’s going on Team Peru has decided to spend some days working on AASD’s farm just to get a feel for what it really means to be a small, ecological producer in the Sacred Valley of Peru. After all that writing and thinking, the crew really enjoyed getting out and putting in some hard work at the farm. Check our the album on facebook for more photos of Team Peru out and about.


Photo by FAO/Simon Maina

Photo by FAO/Simon Maina

“We need to be able to focus CAADP on sustaining the momentum on three or four issues. One is women’s engagement in agriculture, in decision making and in policy formulation. Secondly youth engagement is critical for us to be able to move the younger generation forward. And thirdly, we need to be conscious of and responsive to the needs of climate change, in terms of building resilience of communities.” – Buba Khan, ActionAid International

Although this quote from the New Agriculturalist Article, Investing in Agriculture, refers to agricultural development in Africa, it is a statement that could easily apply to key focus areas for agricultural development in Peru. In fact, these are really focus areas for any country hoping to advance its agricultural sector and most of all to strengthen it. Resilience to climate change, reduced vulnerability to shocks, and just general development of food systems depends on key actors such as women and the future leaders of any country. So even though here at AASD we often focus on very localized, solutions, it is always useful to pay attention to the larger trends going on around the world in regards to agriculture and development.






This week’s photo shows a fusion of new and old. Yes, I know it looks like a pile of rocks with some pretty colored lettuces sticking out from the top. But what you’re really looking at is the terracing technique, a practice borrowed from Incan agriculture. This terrace is an old method we adopted from the Incas that is then planted with a crop that is relatively new to the valley, heirloom leaf lettuce.

Incan terraces are a sophisticated agricultural method, plus they look cool!  Terracing creates microclimates. Between each terrace a change in temperature and light exposure occurs. The Incas harnessed this technique to grow crops suited for various climates in one place, essentially creating the perfect climate that each crop needed to thrive. At Moray, the Incan runis of a sophisticated agricultural laboratory, they would slowly adapt crops to different climates by moving them up or down terraces. So while the heirloom lettuce sitting on this terrace may be a part of a new movement for organic, unique varieties in the Sacred Valley, we’re still looking to the past to help us keep these little leaf-lings warm and thriving at the farm. ~Kat

In honor of International Permaculture Day, we’d like to share an article on the potential of permaculture as a tool for individuals to improve their food security in a sensible and environmentally friendly manner that does not demand a major allocation of time or resources. Read this article about permaculture in the Guardian by Monterey Institute of International Studies alum Catherine Carlton who currently works at Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology.

Click here to read the article if you haven’t already.


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