Food Revolutions

Applications Closed

Applications Closed!


Food Revolutions

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  • In the shadow of the Andes, explore the food revolution at its traditional roots and dig into urban agriculture with our partners at Yachai Wasi.
  • Cultivate coffee alongside local farmers in San Pedro Vilcambamba and harvest honey with local beekeepers in Machachi.
  • Explore the flavours of Ecuador’s delicious local cuisine while learning the lingo with Yanapuma Spanish school!
  • Immerse yourself in indigenous culture and exercise your inner farmer with the Tsa´chila community on the Pacific Slope.
  • Get off the grid on a multi-day hike that takes you to remote mountain lodges and a bottomless volcanic lake in the Andes.

Program Dates

July 15 – August 23
Applications Closed!

May 27 – July 5
Applications Closed!

Fees + Community Contribution

$3,000 + $615
$3,295 + $750

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Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Orientation in Quito
Our program starts in Ecuador’s iconic and cosmopolitan capital of Quito. Following pickups from Mariscal Sucre International Airport, we’ll get settled in the city’s centro historico and acclimatize to the sights, sounds, and smells of the region. But first we’ll learn the lingo with Spanish classes at Yanapuma language school, an incredible social enterprise that also works to promote education and community-based development in Ecuador. After class, we’ll scavenge the local markets, chow down on delicious patacones, and take a salsa lesson or two.

We’ll also begin to explore the food revolution at its roots with Yachai Wasi, an indigenous school in Quito that uses urban agriculture to promote traditional knowledge and practices. Get ready to unpack Ecuador’s colonial history and see where culture, ecology, and cuisine all come together!

Putting the “Culture” back in Agriculture
Once we get settled in, we’ll then take a quick bus ride north to the town of Tabacundo. On a 20-hectare hacienda, we’ll work alongside la Fundación Brethren y Unidad and get the dirt on organic farming and agro-ecology. A leader in community-based development and sustainable food production since the 1970s, the FBU will teach us a thing or two about their large vegetable garden, blackberry plantation, tree nursery, and animal pastures. We’ll eat delicious food and learn how these projects reflect a unique form of resistance and cultural re-vindication for indigenous communities in Ecuador.

Food Forests in Santo Domingo
About a 4-hour bus ride from Quito on Ecuador’s pacific slope is the province of Santo Domingo. Here a group of indigenous Tsa´chila are working to preserve their cultural heritage through small-scale community tourism and sustainable agriculture. We’ll connect with the Yanapuma Foundation and learn about the power of permaculture.

This is also our opportunity to really immerse ourselves in the local culture as we stay with local families, indulge in some scrumptious home-cooked meals, and get our hands dirty. We’ll taste cacao fresh out of the pod and learn to grow a food forest – literally a forest of food! This is your chance to exercise your inner farmer and get to really intimately know Tsa’chila culture.

Where are the Bees?
After another bus ride or two, we’ll make our way over to a little-known family farm named Shunku. This husband-wife team have dedicated themselves to saving Ecuador’s bees and to preserving its once pristine highland forests. In their kind company, we’ll kick back, relax, and reacclimatize to the highlands. We’ll stay in a rustic farmhouse, fire our own pizza, and talk conservation in the heart of Ecuador’s highland wilderness.

And of course, our exploration of the food revolution continues here as we play in the dirt, grow some veggies, plant some trees, and join Gabriela in the apiary to learn how to make that delicious sticky syrup called honey.

Lakes, Loops, and Little-Known Markets
With our bellies full and our minds buzzing, we’ll set off on a trek to explore some of Ecuador’s lesser known food economies. We’ll start in Latacunga and follow the famous Quilotoa Loop. This is a rough-and-tumbly, ring-shaped road that travels from the Panamericana deep into the backcountry of Cotopaxi province. Along the way, we’ll encounter colorful indigenous markets, gaze into a crystal-blue lake that some believe has no bottom, meet a group of painters who use their art to preserve cultural legends, and follow ancient trails that meander between the shadows of Ecuador’s snow-capped volcanoes. Travelling this remote route will bring us up close to isolated Quechua communities and centuries-old ways of growing, making, and sustaining livelihoods.

Salt Mines and Solidarity
To reward ourselves after our trek, we’ll travel south to the remote village of Salinas, a former salt mine that sits at the base of a dramatic bluff and is surrounded by high páramo. Despite its isolation, the town has become somewhat famous for its unique model of rural development. We’ll rest our legs and re-engage our minds with discussions around solidarity. We’ll sample fine cheeses, savour fresh chocolate, and learn how this town’s many cooperatives have created an incredible interdependent economy of small producers. When we’re not learning to make artisanal candy (or gorging ourselves on the results!) we can hike to nearby waterfalls or explore the local organic farm.

Coffee Revolutions
Now we’re off to the eclectic community of Vilcabamba! Nestled among Podocarpos National Park, the town is famous for its peoples’ longevity and has become a big stop for posh new-age culture and organic farming. We’ll be staying up in nearby San Pedro where Colinas Verdes, an organization of local agronomists and campesinos, continues the struggle to create sustainable livelihoods through coffee production and horticulture while tourism below pushes the cost of living ever higher. We’ll stay with local families and work alongside our hosts in their fields. And to cap this all off, how about we learn to make some marmalade and explore the coffee chain from seed to shelf?

Independent Travel Time (ITT)
Our crew will also have Independent Travel Time (ITT) – a staple of all Operation Groundswell programs. You can travel independently if you desire but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interests. Have you always dreamed about visiting the Galapagos? Maybe you want to hike one of Ecuador’s iconic peaks? Or maybe you want to revisit a homestay and volunteer placement? This is the time to do all that!

**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Prior to flying home, our group will reconvene for a program debrief known as ‘disorientation’. This is our chance to regroup, relax, and reflect. We’ll reconnect at a “secret” location near Ecuador’s most famous active volcano. Surrounded by rolling hills, snow-capped peaks, and vegetable gardens, we’ll tell tall tales from ITT and re-live memories from our adventure together. We’ll enjoy some home-cooked comida and discuss everything we’ve learned. We’ll assess our accomplishments and talk about how we can continue to make change at home. There might even be a few surprises…like hikes and hot-tubs (but you didn’t hear it from us!)

Then it’s back to Quito, where we’ll say our hug-filled farewells!

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What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


Independent Travel Time is your opportunity to go out there and explore on your own terms!

  • Get your dive on in the pristine waters of the Galapagos
  • Trek to the summit of one of Ecuador’s iconic peaks
  • Journey to the Amazon – the world’s largest and densest rainforest!


With OG, you live like the locals.

Traveling as much as we do on this Ecuador program, there will be a number of different styles of accommodation. We will be sleeping and eating as a team in locally run hostels, family homestays, and community guesthouses that reflect a backpacker’s ethos. Grassroots travel and homestays will allow us to immerse in the local culture but life on the trail means living without some of the comforts to which we’re accustomed. Cold bucket showers are common while continuous electricity can’t always be guaranteed – so come prepared! Though Western comforts should not be assumed, you can expect to better connect with locals and their culture.

Meet Your Regional Director

Emilie lives for creating and seizing opportunities; opportunities to meet people, to challenge herself, to laugh (loudly), and to learn. From Haiti to the Philippines, she early on found travel as way to fulfill all of the above. After a mechanical engineering degree, she quickly figured out that she had a magnetic attraction to engineering experience and connections rather than things, although things would be way easier! She now loves to get her different gears turning, with social and environmental change as the motor. Wherever Emilie is, you’ll find her breaking into a dance, trying to cook something new, and spending time outdoors as much as possible accompanied by endless evenings of music and board games.

If Not Now, Then When?

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