In 2008, Earth to City founder Tien-Shun Lee visited Ecuador in South America for the sixth time. She noted that young people there are much more adept at growing food, raising animals, cooking up meals and identifying plants than most young people in her own culture. While Lee saw a sea of green in the mountains of Ecuador, her Ecuadorean friends could pick out tacalito buds to be squeezed for eyedrops, aliso leaves to alleviate bruises, boraja leaves to make tea for colds; guanto flowers to put pests and people to sleep, and many more mountainside plants...
No one can choose the culture that they are born into, and Lee decided that the best way to connect people raised in "ready-to-consume" and electronics-ridden cultures to the beauty of mother earth is to physically bring them to simple communities that still live off farming, fishing and wildlife. If you've never milked a cow before, Earth to City will immerse you in a place where cows behind the house are milked every morning and the milk is trucked to a factory to be turned into cheese and yogurt that same day. If you've never killed an animal for food before, our Earth to City families will show you how to smash down the head of a guinea pig to be roasted, or if you are vegetarian, they will at least make sure you pull up some potatoes with your own hands, and help out harvesting whatever food is ready to be picked that day.
Each Earth to City immersion itinerary lasts for five days, from Sunday evening or Monday morning until Friday late afternoon. The fee for the structured "community immersion" week is $280 or $330, depending on the community. About half of the fee goes to pay a bilingual (English-Spanish) guide who serves as a translator for both the language and culture, and for a coordinator within the community who is in charge of assigning who will cook meals, buy food, accompany volunteers, etc. The other half of the fee goes to pay for electricity, water, food and transportation.
If after 5 days you decide you would like to stay for longer, Earth to City guides along with community coordinators can help you figure out a volunteer position that would be suitable for both you and the community. Longer-term volunteers live with families and have their own projects, whereas 5-day tourists/volunteers are always accompanied by a guide and people in the community as they go through a structured itinerary of hands-on, typical activities.
Earth to City was started in Ecuador because the cooperative & friendly spirit of the people there made it easy to find agriculture/wildlife-based communities that were eager to host volunteers and/or tourists. These communities, located in pristine, natural places, had been looking to promote tourism for some time, but hadn't yet made the connections to make it happen. After running programs in Ecuador for some time, Earth to City plans to expand its immersion volunteering to other countries. If you have a suggestion for an agriculture or wildlife-based community that would serve as a good host for Earth to City immersion tours, you can write to us at: email@example.com.
As a journalist for eight years, Lee believes that nothing leaves a deeper impression than physically being in a place, doing stuff with your own hands and interacting face-to-face with real people. Families and community coordinators are the basis of all immersion tours, and every Earth to City week is filled with activities that physically connect you to your food and products as they grow within the earth. Our Earth to City motto is: If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a personal visit is worth a million!
Earth to City, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization incorporated in New York State on Nov. 13, 2008, with consent from the New York State Education Department. Tax-deductible donations, even as small as $25, go a long way in our communities, where a typical two-course lunch costs $1.50 - $2. Checks should be sent to: Earth to City, c/o EarthMatters, 177 Ludlow St., New York, NY 10002.
Earth to City's EIN number is 26-3044091.