Meet Our Organic Agriculture Instructors!

Sustainable Summer’s Seeds of Change program would not be possible without our unique partnership with Rio Muchacho Organic Farm. Our group of high school students will spend eight days at Rio Muchacho, located on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast, engaging in a combination of classroom learning about organic agriculture, and practical, hands-on experience working on the farm. The farm’s owners, Dario Proaño and Nicola Mears, will serve as our students’ instructors, and will open their eyes to the problems associated with the global industrial food system, and how organic alternatives will help pave the way for sustainable food production in the future.

Dario and Nicola founded Rio Muchacho more than 20 years ago, and today it is a thriving example of responsible, sustainable agricultural activity, and also a model for successful eco-tourism and environmental education. Dario was born and raised in the Ecuadorian Andes, but moved to the coast early in his career, eventually acting as the director of tourism for the region of Manabí. He subsequently served as the director of the Coastal Resource Management Program, where he played a vital role in preserving Ecuador’s mangrove forests.  Nicola is a native of New Zealand, where she studied horticulture, agriculture and parks and recreation management, and later taught non-polluting agriculture at Christchurch Polytechnic College. She arrived in Ecuador in 1989, and spent several years teaching organic agriculture at various foundations in Manabí, before collaborating with Dario to found Guacamayo Tours, and agency dedicated to responsible, educational tourism, and to get Rio Muchacho Organic Farm off the ground.  Both Dario and Nicola are members of the National Association of Organic Producers, and they have traveled around the world to serve as panelists and presenters at conferences on organic agriculture and permaculture.

This summer, Nicola will serve as one of our primary instructors for Sustainable Summer students participating in the Seeds of Change program.  She will share her expertise on a wide-range of subjects, including the history of conventional farming, principals of organic farming, the importance of organic matter, plant associations and rotations, biodynamic farming and permaculture. Dario will lead several sessions dedicated to traditional Ecuadorian farming techniques, and the economics of conventional farming practices in the Rio Muchacho valley.  He will also oversee our work with the Rio Muchacho environmental school, which Dario and Nicola founded in 1992 to offer a high quality education to local elementary school students.

Later in the program, we will spend a few days in Tumbaco working with Javier Carrera, the founder of the Seed Guardian Network and an expert in seed saving, permaculture, and agro-ecology. Javier is not only a brilliant agrologist, but he is an incredible teacher. Past students have loved our sessions with Javier that cover a range of critical issues in sustainable agriculture in an interactive way. Past sessions have included permaculture design and theory, the history of plant and animal domestication, and the global politics and policy of the industrial food system.

Javier teaching a group of students about seed saving
Javier teaching a group of students about seed saving

Sustainable Summer is thrilled to offer high school students an opportunity to work closely with two pioneers in the fields of organic agriculture and eco-tourism, and we know this experience will be inspiring and transformational for program participants.  For more information about Dario, Nicola and Rio Muchacho, visit their website, or check out our Seeds of Change program page to learn more about the sustainable adventure we have planned for this summer!