Sowing a potato revolution in the Andes

(Atlas of the Future) Few chefs have the vision and skill to sow 223 varieties of native potatoes on their Andean restaurant’s high-altitude farmland, replicating the efforts of a neighbouring Inca agricultural research centre with a contemporary model in order to improve tuber genetics while collaborating with two indigenous communities. But Virgilio Martínez is doing that.

In 2018 the renowned Peruvian chef, who leads Lima-based restaurant Central, opened Mil, located at 3,568 metres above sea level at Moray in the Cusco region. Already considered an ambitious project due to its elevated location and complex logistics, working with members of the local indigenous communities CC Kacllaraccay and CC Mullak’as-Misminay – whose lives are guided by agriculture – was paramount to driving Mil’s projects forward.

Inspired by Moray, a natural depression that the Inca adapted as a research station to discover how crops acclimated growing at 13 elevations and is today an archeological site, Virgilio says: “Mil’s initial vision was to cultivate local products such as quinua, corn and native potatoes on our 1.3-hectare farm next to the restaurant, which would generate a positive impact on the communities. The chacra (farm) became the best place to generate connections because Andean people spend their time outside, on farmland, close to nature. Working on the farm is a shared activity and as we all split the rewards, it also united us.”

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