Agroecology

There where the air is free
We'll be what we want to be — Pet Shop Boys

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.

Garlic and seedlings

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”.

Signs at the farm

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.

Sowing

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…