MEET THE FARMER: Amanda Harris

An Article from our partners Farmers Footprint

Amanda Harris’ life is the result of saying yes to the unknown. This is a story of how the courage to do so changed everything. Not just for her, but for the 600 people who live in Juluchuca, Guerrero, Mexico – a small, rural community that rests between the Sierra Madre mountain range to the East and the sun-drenched rumbling Pacific Coast to the West.

The meaning of the town of Xolochiuhyan, (where Juluchuca derives its name), has various interpretations including “place to grow old” or “place of the ancient ones” to “place of the gourd” (important as a tool for collecting and storing water). Aztec records indicate this area provided tribute to the Aztec kings in the form of conch shells, salt, cacao and cloth made from locally grown cotton. Landing in Juluchuca was never in Amanda’s plans. She dreamt of a similar place, and made calculated risks in her personal and professional career to get there, but could not have imagined she would actually be making a home in Southwest rural Guerrero, Mexico.

About 15 years ago, Amanda was on a fast track to a career in politics in Washington, D.C. Her degrees in Government and Politics, and Criminal Justice Reform helped her build networks and leverage relationships to address issues of social justice in Maryland and Washington, D.C.. She was passionate, deliberate, and radiated optimism. She believed she could and would help change the systems that limit educational opportunities and access to resources to the underserved communities where she grew up.

A little ahead of her time in Washington, D.C., Amanda felt stagnated by the lack of change in political and private sector circles. A professor friend of hers saw the frustrations brewing and offered Amanda an opportunity to conduct field research on ecological water systems in Western China. She felt called to the opportunity to break free from routine, observe and interact with rural communities in a new culture. She booked a flight to Asia, and the decision has shaped her life ever since.

It was here where she crossed cultural borders and broke down the mental barriers that prevent us from taking risks, stepping into the unknown, and talking to and learning from strangers.

I watched, and listened, and realized, that members of these communities were taking their needs into their own hands.”