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Coronavirus Gives Farm to Table a Whole New Meaning

In mid-March, when the government of Guatemala announced that they would be stopping all flights into and out of the country in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Peyton Foley had less than a day’s notice to pack and find transportation back to his home in Atlanta.  Peyton is the son of our art director, Anessia Foley. 

For more than a year, Peyton has been managing the educational farm training center and home gardens program for The Ripple Effect, Inc. – Guatemala, working with the organization that helps to ensure people in the region have access to clean drinking water and healthy, homegrown food. He and his fiancée, Cristina Asensio, live in a Maya Ixil community on a dirt road that had previously been a mule trail, and, prior to 2010, had no electricity. They live without a refrigerator – without daily cell phone reception – and without Amazon Prime.

The Ripple Effect, Inc. helps Ixil families facing poverty and malnutrition. Peyton’s role includes teaching the local community the foundations of home gardening, sustainable practices, building soil through composting, and organic gardening methods to put produce on the table.

Facing the uncertainty of the coronavirus, Peyton and Cristina quickly made plans to return to the U.S.  They started down the dirt road toward Guatemala City, only to discover that all flights had been cancelled.  Their redirected journey took them by ground to Mexico on a two-day trip that included six busses, two taxies and three planes, flying out of San Cristobal de las Casas to Mexico City, and then to Cancun, where they were able to get a flight home to Atlanta.

You might expect a millennial back in the States for the first time in months to take a few days off, sleep in, and enjoy the simple things, like hot showers and Netflix.  Instead, Peyton quickly took on his mother’s backyard garden. Every year, Anessia plants basics like tomatoes and green beans. Peyton had other ideas, “With things so unpredictable, I thought we should plant some extra.”  A lot extra.  And very much in the tradition of World War II Victory Gardens, he expanded the footprint, adding herbs, radishes, peppers, corn, eggplant, a large bean patch and a blueberry bush. He had arrived in Atlanta on March 18th and completed planting by March 25th.
                                                    Peyton and Cristina in His Family's Back Yard

With his work done in his family’s backyard, Peyton has now headed to Full Life Farm, an organic farm in Carrollton, Georgia, started 10 years ago by friends. With so many unknowns in the face of the coronavirus, the owners’ hoped to up their production this season. Peyton and Cristina volunteered to work the farm with a goal to make more organic produce available locally. While some of the produce is sold through a home delivery subscription service, Full Life Farm is also trying to make fresh organic produce available at reasonable or reduced prices to those who are now without jobs.
Peyton and his fiancée have plans to get married this summer. They don’t know exactly what that will look like right now.  And they don’t know when they might be able to return to their work in Guatemala.  “For now,” says Peyton, “we’re volunteering.  It’s better than anything else we could be doing.”                                                               

When Peyton’s mom and I first started working together as a creative team, he was six. There were times when he would be in the studio with us late at night while we finished a big project.  He would make things out of paper samples that the printing reps had left us. One night, as we were pushing through a deadline, he asked for “some kind of container.”  Happy that he was keeping himself busy, we found a long-empty cookie tin. That seemed to satisfy him.  A few minutes later, he came back with the tin filled with hand-cut bits of green, orange, red and yellow paper and asked his mother and me if we would like some salad.

All these years later, with great conviction and a handful of seeds, it seems that Peyton is still making salad.

Blog author Kim Pendarvis is the creative director for KPPS.