Corn, Heritage & Conservation

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Masienda / Facebook

Thanks to EcoWatch for this:

Heirloom Non-GMO Corn Is Helping Sustain Mexico’s Heritage and Farmers

It’s not often that a conversation inspires an idea leading to a project that improves people’s lives and potentially transforms an industry. But that’s what happened to Jorge Gaviria, founder of Masienda.

While serving as a host and translator at the G9 Chefs Summit at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York in 2013, Gaviria heard chefs discuss responsibly sourced ingredients.

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Jorge Gaviria, founder and CEO of Masienda

Sourced Landrace Non-GMO Corn Varieties

“I gained an appreciation for the storied history of corn,” Gaviria said. “The more I learned the more I wanted to create opportunities for farmers and to connect chefs to them.”

Mexico, particularly the southern state of Oaxaca, is known as the birthplace of corn.

“Mexico has been producing corn for 12,000 years,” Gaviria explained.

The country has as many as 59 landraces or locally adapted, traditional varieties of corn, according to Martha Willcox, Maize Landrace Improvement Coordinator at CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), who has helped Gaviria with his project.

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Masienda partner grower, Catarino and his family in Oaxaca.Masienda

“Maize is the culture in Mexico,” she said. “Everyone eats maize every day and there are 2,000 culinary applications.”

Within those 59 landraces, Gaviria says there are “tons of varieties” of corn, including many colors such as white, blue, red and yellow.

“There is a huge amount of diversity in the landraces,” Willcox said.

Masienda sources its corn from Oaxaca, whose corn varieties are among the most rare and diverse in Mexico. Gaviria buys the corn from the region’s smallholder farmers who have been growing these corn varieties for generations.

“These farmers are custodians of a very precious commodity,” said Alan Tank, former assistant vice president of the National Corn Growers Association and an adviser to Masienda. “The value it represents to them and to the world is nothing short of phenomenal.”

As an Iowa farmer, Tank appreciates the value of Mexico’s corn heritage. “Being part of family farm, I understand the need for biodiversity and preserving it,” he said…

Read the whole article now.

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