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Community Immersion Trips: June 8-13

For a week, John Gulley and Laurie Zuckerman slung their backpacks into the bed of the pick-up truck in the early morning sun and bounced down dirt roads, community to community, with Semilla Nueva staff.  Both donors, hailing from Idaho, flew down to Guatemala with one purpose: to witness first hand the impact their support is having on the land and lives of local smallholder farmers along the coast of Guatemala.

Each day presented a new activity. The week started with a tour of Semilla Nueva’s 6-acre experimental farm where 21 different pigeonpea varieties and 40 different corn varieties are being tested. John and Laurie worked alongside Noe Estrada, Semilla Nueva’s Experimental Farm Director, with machetes in hand to dig small holes for fertilizer in an effort to test the results of precise fertilizer application. Laurie had a chance to grab hold of a measuring tape to assist Jennifer Brito, Semilla Nueva’s Food Security Officer, in measuring baseline malnutrition rates so that SN can track how the state of malnutrition in our communities changes year after year with increased consumption of high protein corn, QPM. The week was finished up bagging just under 700 chaya branches, a spinach-like plant high in nutrition and iron. These packaged plants will be distributed to the Guatemalan Government and our communities for families to grow and eat.

 Of course the week wasn’t all work—there was plenty of time to sit in the shade with farmers and share a meal or hear about the challenges they face. We visited with one of SN’s most passionate farmers, Isais, in Los Encuentros, to hear about the changes he has seen in the texture of his soil as a result of not burning it for 4 years. We held on as we rode in the back of the truck to the beach, going up and down through puddles and mangrove forests, anticipating dipping our feet in the cool Pacific Ocean. Our mouths salivated as we sipped warm atol, a sweet corn beverage, made by Noe’s wife after a long day of bagging chaya. Stories were shared sitting over steaming tortillas and beans with lead promotora, Rosaura, a chance for Laurie to share pictures of her garden at home and Rosaura to share pictures of her grandchildren who live in New York with her daughter.

Laurie explains, “Everything slowed down because questions and answers had to be translated. It gave us time to connect, really seeing and hearing each other while we waited for translation. There was time to imagine being inside of the other’s head.”

John and Laurie came to Guatemala to see the work of Semilla Nueva, but more than anything it was a chance for them to understand the meaningful work they support on a deeper level. Dollar for dollar, studies show that improving agriculture is best way to bring families out of poverty and Laurie and John were a witness to this. The third time visiting Semilla Nueva’s work in Guatemala, John explains, “Each year I come back I am seeing a blend of past and future which shows progress. I am seeing people gather around the ideas and technologies that work and abandon the practices that don’t. I see and hear people believing in themselves.”  

Interested in signing up for the next trip? Please join us! We have 2 more trips this summer and a Rotary Trip in November. Check our website for more information, or email

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