When touring the Andes mountains, the presence of farming is everywhere.
A drive along the endless narrow mountain roads reveals two things. One, due to the steep and isolating mountains, only people who generate their own products can live here. Two, they have been living here for centuries.
The longest continental mountain range in the world, the Andes go through seven South American countries, including Peru, seen here.
It is the highest mountain range outside of Asia. More Andes info here.
Potatoes are prevalent, with 400 varieties still grown today. Maize or corn includes many varieties. Andean grains (quinoa, amaranth), legumes, and roots are also farmed.
Corn is consumed in many ways, including a popular maize beer called chicha (more here).
The survival of Andean farming has been attributed to peasant farmers over the centuries. They have preserved traditions and plant species, and adapted cultivation techniques from their Inca ancestors. (More Inca agriculture here.)
While visiting Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, we saw well-preserved ruins of irrigation and terracing techniques used during the Inca civilization (1400s, 1500s).
Fast forward to today, and there are still similar farming techniques throughout the region.
Terraced farms and farmers turning potato crops were common sights–small houses surrounded by quinoa fields, and locals selling their yields in nearby towns.
In all the towns, whether large or small, I always enjoyed looking for the chicha flags–a colorful “flag” indicating their shop sold chicha.
It was refreshing and fascinating to see productive families and communities farming and living as their ancestors did.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless noted