Viva La Milpa |

Viva La Milpa

Maya Anderman
Staff Writer

Nevada County resident Chula Gemignani has always been a lover of organic, locally grown food. But that love turned into more of a career when she got involved with the Viva La Milpa project.

Viva La Milpa is a traveling art and education exhibit that aims to raise consciousness around food sovereignty issues, coming to town — appropriately enough — on Independence Day.

The overall mission of the national movement is to preserve the heirloom corn seeds of Mexico.

Previously there were 250 varieties of indigenous heirloom corn and now there are only 68.

According to Gemignani, the use of GMO corm imposes many threats in Mexico, including environmental, cultural, social, and health issues.

"President Nieto wants to privatize commercial farming of corn and in doing so, farmers would have to purchase seeds from him and the government, so right now in Mexico there's a huge movement to amend this," said Gemignani. "Biodiversity is what is going to save this planet from starvation, not a GMO seed."

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The Viva La Milpa exhibit consists of two pieces. The main large exhibit includes woodcuts, murals, and paintings that travel city to city. There is also a sister exhibit that is housed in the gallery opened in Southern Mexico, where pieces are taken to pueblos nearby and farmers are taught about seed saving and preservation.

"I was moved by Mexican corn," said Gemignani, "For me, it's really part of the soul and religion of Mexico."

Gemignani has been an organic food grower for many years — she used to have a farm on Hawaii that was adjacent to a GMO papaya field.

"It just happened to me," she said. "I felt what it's like to have my food rights taken away from me, it was really a powerful experience.

"I just felt like it was our birthright to have organic, clean food, and people are taking that away from us and it's not OK," she said.

The InterdepenDANCE party has been taking place for the past three years and has always been very successful in raising funds and awareness for the Viva La Milpa project, Gemignani said.

The July 4 benefit will feature several local musicians, a DJ, lots of food, activities for kids, dancing and much more.

There are also discounts for anyone who carpools, rides a bike, or brings food to share to the party.

"This exhibit is 100 percent supported by this fundraiser. I call it Interdependence because right now we need to realize that we are all in this together and need to work together," said Gemignani.

"This project is about raising awareness and empowering people with knowledge… It really shows how one person can make such a big difference in the world."

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