Cashews: Journey To The Table
As people who love to cook, it is easy to focus on food's transformation in the kitchen. But living in Haiti, and working alongside farmers, reminds us that the vast majority of the risk, effort, and artistry that goes into food's journey happens long before it reaches us in the kitchen. Take cashews, a nut I've always found delicious. You can find a thousand recipes for what to 'do' with cashews in the kitchen. Today I want to focus instead on their journey to the kitchen -- from fragile seedlings in mountain-top nurseries, to the freshly roasted cashew nuts for sale in market stalls.
About half our work here in Haiti is focused on agriculture, and helping farmers and their families develop sustainable food systems and markets, providing the income they need in the short-term while protecting and improving their land for longterm food security. MCC works with vulnerable families to capitalize on their own hard work, skills, and resources to secure a future for themselves and their families. When it comes to cashews, a very valuable crop, this work starts by developing self-sustaining tree nurseries to help communities re-forest their corner of Haiti, one garden at a time. To ensure these valuable seedlings thrive, MCC also supports the spread of multi-cropping and soil protection techniques, and assists with fencing to protect the fragile new trees from roaming animals. One of our longstanding partners working in Haiti's north, PDL (Partenariat pour le Développement Local), works with farmer's cooperatives to add value to their cashew harvest by shelling, cleaning, and roasting cashew nuts. Below are pictures of this remarkable journey from a cashew seedling taking root in the mountains overlooking the Artibonite river, to the final stages of value-added-processing with a community cooperative in Mombin Crochu.
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Paul Shetler Fast was born in Tanzania, grew up in Goshen, Indiana, and most recently called Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania home. Paul's professional degrees are in International Development and Public Health. He has been in the shared role of Representative for MCC Haiti, along with his wife Rebecca, since April 2016. In his free time, Paul cooks and photographs for the couples' food blog.