High in the Peruvian Andes Mountains, a one hour drive from Cusco winding through hillsides quilted in every imaginable shade of green with corn, quinoa, beans and potatoes, the small farming community of Misminay welcomed Farmer Rob and I and our friends to their homes and lives with proud smiles, warm hearts and giant fuchsia blossom necklaces. January is the month we set aside some time to rest and rejuvenate, and this year we traveled to the beautiful country of Peru to visit family. While there we took the opportunity to visit historic Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, but the highlight of our week was visiting this unique community which has the residents partnering with a local tour group to educate visitors about their culture, welcome them into their homes for a meal, and in turn benefit from the tourism revenue by improving their agricultural equipment, broadening the market for their beautifully handcrafted textiles, and better equipping the men who are hired as porters for people trekking to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail.
Laughter rang out from all of us as we introduced ourselves to each other, gave
our names, ages and occupations with the help of a translator and found common ground when we told them we were also farmers who market our products to the local community. The resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Peruvian people was astounding as the women demonstrated centuries old techniques of cleaning, spinning and dyeing wool from their sheep, all done with the use of plants growing in the hillsides. I wondered at what the process was that many years ago saw someone discover that a certain plant could act as a natural detergent to wash their dirty wool or that the mountain beetle produced a chemical perfect for dying that wool a brilliant red.
Then the men had their turn as they showed us how they keep their vegetable fields so beautifully clean. Back breaking work, these men stooped over with their traditional tools and weeded and hilled the rows of lima beans powered only by their muscle and the sweat of their brow. After a delicious lunch of quinoa soup, potatoes (Peru grows over 3,000 types of potatoes!), corn, beans, meatballs and even a potato pudding for dessert, we gathered up our handmade textiles and thanked our gracious hosts. The invitation by these warm and welcoming Peruvians to dine on their delicious home cooked food at their rustic wooden table proved to us again that life is better when shared with friends old and new!