Conexión: Latino farmer in Vermont uses heirloom corn to connect with community
As Nando Jaramillo shucked corn in early November, he slowed down for a moment to look at his harvest.
“Oh my god,” he said. “Beautiful.”
The purple husks revealed the white corn kernels and pink lines of zapalote chico, an heirloom corn variety. It’s one of the first strains of domesticated corn from Oaxaca, Mexico, and one of a handful of corn varieties Jaramillo grows at three different farms in Vermont’s Upper Valley. He uses them to make arepas and empanadas for the organization he founded, Moon and Stars.
Jaramillo started Moon and Stars about six years ago to connect regenerative farming practices and cultural traditions.
“In my mind, I’ve always been thinking, ‘How can we create a food system that really aligns what we envision as a regenerative culture?” he said.
He decided Vermont was the place to try that out, after spending a summer there in 2016, away from his home in Miami. He says he was struck by the accessibility of good food in Vermont, a state he believes has a strong environmental conscience.
Because Jaramillo uses heirloom corn, his arepas are earthier and slimmer than the arepas typically made with mass-produced corn flour. Jaramillo says he hopes his version can expand people’s idea of what an arepa could taste like.
“Good food doesn’t need to have an organic label,” he said. “It’s about creating a local economy, and how we connect with the people that are growing the food.”
This is the fourth video in Conexión: Rooted in New England's Outdoors, a video series this fall from the New England News Collaborative.