The Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project
The products featured as part of the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project are the results of our two companies working together to help small farmers continue to grow their indigenous crops in Mexico, despite international trade policies that seem to discourage genetic diversity and local food traditions. Rather than just collect seeds and conduct bean trials here in Napa, it dawned on me it would be great to buy the beans directly from the farmers in Mexico who were growing heirloom varieties.
On our own, it seemed next to impossible. How to make the sale, prepare the beans for shipping and deal with all the customs and importation nightmares? Luckily we've teamed up with Xoxoc. They've made a name for themselves with their sour prickly pear snacks, already being imported into the US and after the working out the logistics, we started importing heirloom beans from Mexico to the United States. The amazing thing about this project has been that everybody seems to be thriving. The farmers have pre-sold their harvest and don't have the risk of taking their crops to market. Instead of growing bland, hybrid crops for international markets, they can continue growing the varieties they know best, often varieties that have been grown for generations. Rancho Gordo customers now have access to many completely obscure and wonderful beans that would be almost impossible to try otherwise.
By consuming these products, we're creating a market that actually encourages people to preserve their local traditions. From beans, we've branched out into other products as well. Chocolate, salts, oreganos, and even pottery are all being imported on a small scale from Mexico. In 2010, we started importing heirloom corn, a politically "hot" crop that's constantly being threatened. For us, creating a market for at-risk crops is the best way to save them.
This has been one of the most oddly wonderful and satisfying things we've been involved with. All of these efforts would be wasted if the products weren't delicious. Luckily, they are!