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When traveling abroad, I've lately found I prefer not to do too much research into where I'm headed. I like going in with as open a mind as possible, with few expectations. Something that has struck me on this visit to South America is how similar certain things are, not just with the United States, but with my specific home, Little Rock, Arkansas. This past Sunday, my colleagues and I flew from Quito to Loja, Ecuador. Our first stop was a farmer's market, where we visited with Heifer participants and sampled their goods for breakfast.

Heifer participants wear green aprons and sell under green tents,
 distinguishing themselves from the sellers up the hill,
who sell produce that's "conventionally" grown and not always local.

The market is divided into two sections. The first is the agroecological market, which is where Heifer Ecuador participants have booths. (The term "agroecology" has it's own definition, but for the most part, consider it about the same as "organic.") All of the products sold under the green tents are grown without chemicals and using practices that care for the environment.

Oscar Casteneda sampling some milk bread.

The second section of the market, however, is where "conventional" products are sold. This reminded me of our main farmer's market in Little Rock. Some of the products may be local, but many are imported, out of season, and likely have been treated with any number of agri-chemicals.

My breakfast of milk bread and colada de sambo
(a warm beverage of milk, brown sugar and the pulp of some sort of gourd).

Our farmers who sell here come from near and far. Some grow in urban or peri-urban gardens, while others must pay for a truck to bring their produce in from their rural farms. We visited farms in both situations, and I'll be sharing those soon.

Eggs, cheese and produce.

We had the chance to ask some of the customers of the agroecological market why they shop there. Some say price (unlike in the United States, prices for agroecological produce in this market are less than that of the conventional produce up the hill), but many more recognize the health and environmental benefits of organic produce.

Pierre Ferrari finds Heifer's logo.

More produce! A head of lettuce costs $0.50 (wish I could bring some back).
Heifer Ecuador staff member Diana Guayllas holds up a jicama.
Granadilla, relative of the passion fruit.
That's not punch in the cup; it's called horchata tea,
and it's made with the ingredients you see right there on the table. 

This has nothing to do with Heifer,
 but I shot this out the van window on our way to the market,
and I just had to share.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.