The Corn Festival

Recently, the AASD and Team Peru traveled to Lares for the annual Choquecancha Corn Festival.  For the last three years we have celebrated this festival with Ruben, his family, and friends in his cornfields. The corn festival is a tradition passed down from the Incas. Today, it is sadly falling out of practice in many of the small farming communities of the Andes. Together Ruben and ourselves are dedicated to keeping this beautiful ceremony alive and practiced, at least in his community of Choquecancha.   


What is in a Tradition?

The corn festival is one of three big workdays in Ruben’s steep mountainside cornfield. It is the last work day before harvest, but it is so much more than a work day. The day is centered around one of the cornerstones of the traditional Inca communal work system, Mink’a. Practicing Mink’a means that farmers in the community rotate working together in each other’s fields, a beautiful system of communal support and community building. The day is filled with a feast of traditional foods – meat stewed for the special occasion, tasty fried corn cakes, a traditional chard and potatoes mix, rice, mote (large corn kernels), and of course the native papa (potatoes). Chicha, the local corn alcohol, fuels workers and cooks alike between stints of intensive clearing between rows. Dances in the corn fields, beautiful flute and conch shell playing, and lots more dancing carry the celebration throughout the night. For a beautiful, detailed personal account of this day, check out a post by Amanda Sidman, who joined us for the day! As the clouds flitted across the pristine sky, we stood atop a vast mountaintop, celebrating a day of community, tradition, and beauty. Thanks  to Ruben for inviting us to celebrate such a wonderful tradition for yet another year! ~Kat

Chris Miller, an awesome AASD intern, is pictured above. Chris is checking out what greenhouse owners are growing in their structures for the family greenhouse initiative in Maucau. This June, AASD worked alongside 15 families to roof small greenhouses attached to the side of their homes. These lean-to like structures are packed full with nutritious veggies. By being on the side of the house, they have the potential to help heat the house as the rock walls cool off at night. Pretty neat!

The women of the family attend the regular workshops to learn more about ecological growing, greenhouse growing, and space maximization. On this particular day, our agriculture team was out collecting information for evaluating the progress of the project as well as looking at what plants were in place. Our upcoming workshop was on crop rotation, so Chris is assessing what’s ready for harvest in order to address an appropriate crop rotation plan for each greenhouse. The goal was to make the workshop real time and interactive – so we had to know who was growing what.

Sixto helps manage and maintain the Choquecancha primary school greenhouse. Ruben took this photo of Sixto in action, harvesting some giant cauliflower last week. His enthusiasm and hard work keeps the students involved. He works above and beyond to make sure the greenhouse looks good all the time too. We value the enthusiasm of community members such as Sixto who take pride in ensuring the continued success of the school greenhouse projects. Next year, we hope to work closer with Sixto, giving him even more tools for innovating and advancing the school greenhouse project alongside the students of Choquecancha.

We all Need to Eat

Imagine if you had rely on someone else to get you some food every time you were hungry. I, for one, would be a very hungry angry person without control over how I accessed food. But people all over the world struggle to gain autonomy over their food systems, often relying on external aide, such as government food supplements.

Food systems and human well-being are inextricably bound. For this reason, securing sustainable food systems is a hot topic in the world of development. At the AASD, we’re working towards local solutions for advancing food sovereignty in the highlands of Peru (among other projects). We envision sustainable food systems as those that:

  •  enable individuals to gain autonomy over their systems of food production
  • sustain and even increase the health of the environment

How do We Achieve This?

AASD works to fuse the most relevant methods and philosophies from many schools of ecological agriculture (i.e. organic, agreocolgy, permaculture, biointensive) in order to find the most effective manner in which to work the land. Effectiveness is determined by available resources, cultural norms, and the goals we are trying to achieve with the subsistence farmers we collaborate with. We strive to increase access to food diversity through a fusion of old and new technologies. The hope is that individuals will be the drivers of their own nutritious food systems, and one day may even be able to sell and share the fruits of their labor. We’re delving deep into a region while simultaneously connecting these remote farmers with the global movement for food sovereignty. Pretty exciting! Stay tuned for more nitty gritty on how we put our philosophy into practice.

Most importantly, we need your feedback: What type of things can AASD do to share our localized work with the global movement for sustainable food systems? ~Kat

Join us in our exploration of ecological agricultural in the highlands of Peru


Share our successes. Learn from our failures. Explore the how and why of what we do.


Yep, we have a new blog right on our website! You may ask yourself, “What is Ecological agricultural development?” The short answer is: We don’t know. Nobody does for sure. The processes by which individuals advance their autonomy over their food systems depends, whether ecologically or not, so heavily on local factors. Despite these intricacies each local instance is simultaneously tied into a larger global process of agricultural development.

As we get deeper into our localized node of Andean agriculture over here, we want to share our beliefs, findings, and stories. We want to put our big questions out there and to hear what you all are thinking about this too. We hope you enjoy undertaking this exploration with us!