When I met Julio in September I remember him standing in the kale garden bed reminding us all about the power of knowing your purpose. In those hours I swear the leaves of green and purple were saluting him like the king he is. He is the Gardner that smiles back to the soil and that moves the very ground he is cultivating by his lived experience of justice and cultural pride. Born and raised in the Sacred Valley, Julio has seen how power and globalization can change the sweetness of the choclo (corn) we munch on and the way campesinos, farmers, are revered by others. Julio and his family take an agro-ecology approach to farming and re-instilling the value of knowledge and practices in highland communities surrounding the Sacred Valley. In short, Julio believes “Un campesino debería de tener el tiempo para leer un poema” “a farmer should have the time to read a poem.”
Julio and his sister Jessi have a farm that models the highest principles of agro-ecology and they invite people from all over to come learn and take the principles back their communities. This is where Hamzah, Jane and Abby are spending their afternoons for their Individual Study Projects. A typical afternoon is spent amongst the tomato vines and taking breaks to talk about the significance of coca in indigenous communities.
The other day I asked Jessi about specific gender norms in farming and agriculture. She told me women typically focus on planting and when I asked why she said, “Porque el machismo no va a sembrar algo que crece,” “Machismo will not plant something that grows” It’s these bursts of passion and truth that make up the smells and produce of this family’s farm. When they share choclo with you they are sharing their pride, their sweetness, their resiliency that has made their corn taste so good. In a world of genetically modified everything I am thankful we have students studying with humans who use their hearts to create and share.