In the past few weeks we have been working hard at our WWOOF location on Chiloé. Freddy has been harvesting giant garlic, Ajo Chilote. These are sold in individual cloves, so the major task now is peeling them. Closer to the house, I sowed new lettuce and chard. The work is almost hypnotic; with each seed that I put in the soil, I thought about the mysterious process that is happening there in the dark.
In the workshop room I read this sentence from the prayer to the seed (full text):
Semilla es vida y es milagro: la semilla repite a diario el milagro de la multiplicación del alimento … tierra, aire, agua y cultura son sus condiciones.
Roughly translated: The seed daily repeats the miracle of multiplicating its own environment: Soil, water, air, and culture. This poem was written by Mario Mejía, a Colombian writer who is known as the father of agroecology in his country.
It is a good summary of the philosophy of señora Cecilia, which presents itself as soon as you enter the farm. There are signs along the path with slogans like “biodiversity is our life” and “only nature is perfect”.
Agroecology is a farming method that is based on the ecosystems on the farm. External inputs are minimized, and food production goes hand in hand with the protection of biodiversity. But apart from a technical principle, it is also a social movement.
Señora Cecilia grows many native plants, including local potato varieties, papas nativas. Along with Peru, Chiloé is the cradle of the potato. 80% of the world’s potato varieties originate from potatoes that have been brought from Chiloé by the Spaniards and other Europeans. By sustaining old varieties, Chilotes protect their cultural heritage. It is a form of self-determination and taking back what was taken from them during the colonization.
For me, it is inspiring to experience this way of thinking and working from the inside. The connection to the land and the water is very deep and goes beyond production and profit making. Agriculture is a form of empowerment; the farm is part of a global movement, see the video below. We intend to stay here a few weeks more, during which I hope to see the new plants grow and we will probably peel lots of garlic…