Monday, March 11, 2013

Our big event

Yesterday in Guayata we had a massive promotion event, and it went off very well.  We had people visiting from various parts of Boyaca department, in addition to a healthy contingent of local farmers that were interested in our achira experiment.

To avoid tacky plastic cups and styrofoam plates, we served everything in dried tree gourds (Crescentia cujete) that then became nice souvenirs for people to take home afterwards.  The local peasants were especially happy, as they use these to serve drinks in the middle of a hard day of field work.

We greeted our out-of-town guests with a special soup made from guarapo (cane beer), cane syrup, thickened with achira starch, and accompanied by cottage cheese.

Though it was raining hard all morning, things let up in time for us to go visit the experimental field.  Many of our visitors had never seen an achira plant before, much less the harvest and starch extraction processes, so it was a big treat for them.

After messing around in the field a bit, we went back down to the house and split up into three groups.  One group did a taste test of different achira varieties that we'd cooked the night before.  One group consisted in representatives of different local institutions, who planned future steps to take in order to promote achira as a local crop.  And the last group was larger-scale farmers of achira (or those aspiring to plant more), who identified obstacles and solutions to expanding achira acreage.  Our hope is that the conclusions of these latter two groups will serve to continue to improve the achira production chain, and especially to make it possible for farmers to earn more by cultivating this ancestral crop.

We finished our day with a Mass that the local priest was nice enough to come out and offer, and then a delicious feast of carne al caldero (seasoned meat cooked for hours in a big iron cauldron with flaming logs below and on top of it), local cassava, guacamole, and cooked achira rhizomes.  In everything we did, we wanted to maintain an authentic local character, in order to remind people of the rich food and traditions of their zone.

So things on the practical side of the experiment have gone smashingly.  We've got just about all our samples now, so I'll be sending stuff to the lab this week, using the money our contributors have so generously donated.

Be sure to check out the photos section of our Indiegogo page.  Lots of good pics of the harvest and the final celebration.

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