Kudos to Sergio Nuñez de Arco and his brother Fabricio for allowing the rest of the world to benefit from our quinoa! I welcome them to The Hall of Bolivian Fame!
The 13 Gods of Food
Sometimes, a decision in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant far, far away may end up as the vegetable you serve your kids on Wednesday. Take kale, for example. A few months after chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York wrote up a kale recipe for a food magazine, the once forgotten vegetable became the focus of a healthy trend, a fashionable addition to the foodie plate and now has dug itself into the mainstream. There is something almost otherworldy in the way that happened and the other people (and one company) that we have designated “Gods of Food” have their own roles in working the magical thinking and eating that reaches our dinner tables. Here is the pantheon as we see it:
3. Sergio Nuñez de Arco. The Bolivia-born entrepreneur caught on to the attractions of the indigenous grain quinoa—and now the poor man’s food of his native country has struck it rich in the U.S.
What Is Quinoa? How Quinoa Became America’s Hottest Whole Grain and Brought New Income to Bolivian Farmers
Farming quinoa has become big buiness in rural Bolivia as quinoa’s nutrition and health benefits have made it the whole-grain darling of healthy diets.
“And what would you do without quinoa?” I ask.
He looks at me a second, thinking. “Our choice is simple: it’s ‘quinoa or emigrate.’”
One person trying to keep Bolivia’s quinoa industry healthy is Sergio Nuñez de Arco, a Bolivian-born, U.S.-raised entrepreneur. Together with his brother Fabricio and backed by trading house Specialty Commodities, he runs an importing business called Andean Naturals that accounts for a third of the quinoa sold in the United States. Though business is booming—what was initially a $90,000 investment six years ago is now a $30 million empire—when he speaks to quinoa farmers, his tone is cautious, not exuberant.
Nuñez de Arco’s company is working hard to help farmers get organic certification, develop sustainability plans and ensure they have enough quinoa for themselves. It takes a lot of work to bring lasting change to a region where caravans of smugglers still ply the sandy roads. Increased incomes and tractors are a start, but it’s going to take schools, Internet access and hospitals. “A lot of people tell me, ‘Stop living in Disneyland!’” he says as we bomb down an empty highway. “But to me, it’s like keeping a garden: you can try to grow one as big as possible and watch it all get out of control. Or,” and here he points toward the sweeping valley of dust and gold, “you can try to take care of a small one, where, if you have enough time and resources, you can make something beautiful thrive.”
Sergio Nuñez de Arco: The King of Quinoa
How the poor man’s food from the Andes made it in America
“Most quinoa is grown by small family farmers…