Visiting professor studies small-farming systems

Doug Stevens

Small farming systems are the focus of study for a visiting Peruvian professor. The ISU sociology department has been hosting Mar¡a Fern ndez of the National Agricultural University of Peru, La Molina, for the past month. Fern ndez, interim professor of sociology, will be working on research at Iowa State until Oct. 5. During her time here, Fern ndez will be studying small farming systems and writing a paper with ISU Sociology Professors Jan and Cornelia Flora. All three sociologists have been researching rural farming systems since the 1970s and have worked together on past projects. Cornelia Flora said the group is excited to be able to collaborate again. “We have worked together on similar projects for many years,” she said. “We’ve known her a long time, admired her work and were finally able to get her here.” Fern ndez has been researching small farm systems in Peru and Brazil since 1972 and has worked in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. In addition to these projects, Fern ndez also co-founded the Peruvian nonprofit organization, Grupo Yanapai, in 1983. “Grupo Yanapai is a nonprofit organization that does research in small farming communities,” Fern ndez said. “We work with sustainable resource management and help form coalitions. We also work with the communities on technological alternatives to improve farming.” Fern ndez said the coalitions are organizations designed to help farmers reach new and more profitable markets that they might never access on their own. Fern ndez said despite some differences in market opportunities and information availability, there are many similarities between Iowa and Peruvian agriculture. “What really impressed me is that there seems to be a real concern for community,” she said. “There is also a common effort to produce ecologically sound products.” Fern ndez said the advent of corporate farms and the consolidation and vertical integration of agriculture has a negative effect that extends beyond America. She said the new source of cheap food from American farmers has flooded much of the international food market, making it very difficult for South American farming communities to compete. Fern ndez said one of the results from her time at Iowa State could be a long-term international link between the university and a Peruvian agriculture university that she has worked with extensively. While the memories she has made here will be very special to her, Fern ndez said the people she has met and the contacts she has made at Iowa State will be an even more important resource for her friends and colleagues in Peru.