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Minga Dynasty

Cooperative organic farming takes root in Kentucky

screen shot La Minga
Perennial Plate

The ideas of cooperative work are central to many movements in Latin America. Nelson Escobar has brought those ideas from his home in El Salvador to Louisville, Ky., to a large urban farm named La Minga after a traditional South American form of collective organization. Now, in the heart of conservative America, the farmers plant, cultivate, and harvest their food together, sharing the bounty amongst themselves and supporting the greater local community as they go.

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Pampas and circumstance

This Argentinian ranch sticks to the gaucho way of raising beef

cows
Perennial Plate

In 2012, Jessica Weiss wrote a story for Grist on factory farms replacing grass-fed beef in Argentina. In Argentina, beef isn't just a food; it's a lifestyle. We were inspired to seek out a ranch that's sticking to traditional methods. Join us as we explore La Dos Hermanas Ranch, where they maintain the tried-and-true ways of raising grass-fed beef in Argentina.

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Why growing chocolate in Mexico is an act of resistance

In Mexico, chocolate is more than a sweet treat: It's a food steeped in history, culture, and spirituality. But its place in Mexican agriculture and production has nearly been wiped out by a variety of a threats -- from frosty pod rot to slipping cultural appreciation. Farmer Dona Demetria Gutierrez Rendon and Casa Tropical chocolatier Hector Galvan are trying to bring it back. Watch their stories:

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One Mexican community raises its fortunes with oregano

People from Tlahuiltepa, Mexico, have long journeyed to the U.S. in search of farming work. But now, the Oregano Caxtle Co-operative aims to keep labor and revenues at home by cutting out "coyote" middlemen. Founder Isaias Dominguez tells how a favorite spice helps keep one community prosperous and intact:

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Pasta perfect: This Italian family grows heirloom grains

Italy is known for its pasta, but despite its rich heritage, most flour in this country is homogenous and bleached. Luckily, in the hills of Tuscany we stumbled upon Franco Pedrini who, along with his sons, grows heirloom grains through biodynamic farming, a holistic, social approach to growing food. "We work for a future society," says Pedrini. We were lucky enough to spend two days with this charming family.

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This fish farm gives a portion of its product to predators

Veta La Palma takes sustainable fish farming to a whole new level. In 1982, the company bought up marshlands adjacent to the Guadalquivir River in Southern Spain. The land had been drained to raise cattle, which destroyed the natural habitat and decimated the local bird population. Veta La Palma re-flooded the area and went to work restoring the wetlands.

Now, the company's aquaculture farm uses natural filtration to clean the water, and encourages biodiversity -- even that of predators. "They take about 20 percent of our annual yield," farmer and biologist Miguel Medialdea told TIME Magazine as a bird scooped up a sea bass. "But that just shows the whole system is working."

Inspired by chef Dan Barber's TED talk on the subject, we made the trek out one windy afternoon to learn about this holistic approach to growing fish.

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Is foie gras always a faux pas? One family aims to humanely produce it

Foie gras is a controversial topic. It's one of the most delicious foods on the planet, but conventional foie gras comes at the price of force-feeding ducks and geese. Pateria de Sousa is doing things differently. By reviving old techniques, his family farm in Spain has managed to produce the much sought-after delicacy in a humane and sustainable way.

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In Sri Lanka, a tsunami-torn family still depends on the sea

In 2004, the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka killed eight members of this small fishing family. And yet today, they still fish (either on stilts or in a boat) because they have to do it to survive. The family lives in a small, makeshift hut with a back "window" that opens onto the ocean -- the same sea that gives life also takes it away.

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Coconuts, from nose to tail

In Sri Lanka, the coconut is a source of life. Not only is it the main ingredient in most Sri Lankan dishes, but the entire coconut tree -- from the roots to the coconut itself to the tips of the leaves -- plays a major role in non-culinary ways of life. Without the coconut, things in Sri Lanka would be very different. We spent the day with a family of eight on their coconut plantation outside of Negombo, where they showed us all the humble coconut has to offer.

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Seed savers: Vandana Shiva and female farmers stand up to Monsanto

There's been enough written about genetically modified organisms and Monsanto that it's easy to lose touch with how they actually impact people's lives. On a recent trip to India, Perennial Plate got a wake-up call from environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Here's our conversation with Shiva on a seed-saving revolution, farmer suicides, and how female farmers are the future of India's agriculture.

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