They climbed mountains. They interviewed countless farmers. They learned more than a book will ever teach them. They spoke hours upon hours of Spanish. They became inspired to learn more and do more. They ate guinea pigs. They cheered on the Ecuadorian soccer team with a few thousand of their closest friends.

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In short, they had two weeks that made an indelible imprint on their lives.

Corinna Clements and Austin Larrowe have packed in a year’s worth of living over their last two weeks in Ecuador. Now they are getting ready to head back home, where they will begin writing a scientific paper about their research on the sweet naranjilla fruit. They are working with Professor Jeff Alwang to study the relationship that farmers have with naranjilla in the hopes that their work can help stave off the very serious problem of deforestation here.

For Clements, a rising senior who is majoring in agricultural and applied economics and minoring in Spanish, the last two weeks have been life changing. After reading so much about both subjects over the last few years, the trip has been an awakening.

“It’s like a book came to life,” she said.


Larrowe, who got his 32nd stamp in his passport when he came to Ecuador, said this is one of his favorite countries ever. The land, the people, and the culture all blew him away.

“Ecuador is so uniquely beautiful and the people are so friendly that it is really hard to imagine it without experiencing it for yourself,” said Larrowe.


Over the past few days, they headed deep into the Andean mountains where they interviewed some of the indigenous Ecuadorians who are practicing conservation agriculture. SANREM Innovation lab, which is managed by Virginia Tech, has been working with farmers here to help them develop ways to protect the environment while boosting profits.

As was so often the case, they farmers were welcoming and genuinely interested in talking with the two about their experiences.

I’m uploading a lot of photos from the last few days because we were all blown away by how beautiful both the people and the land were.


That’s it for this chapter of the VT Research blog. Stay tuned for a video of the last few weeks.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank Jeff Alwang for allowing me to come to Ecuador and learn about the work he has been involved with for so many years. I’d also like to give a shout out to Corinna and Austin for letting me tag along with them over the last week. They are amazingly smart, driven, and kind students. Hokie Nation is lucky to have them.  Lastly, a big thanks to the people of Ecuador.

Muchas gracias!