For groups who are interested in experiential, hands-on learning, Utz K offers tailored on-site workshops related to local practices such as natural construction, permaculture and agroecology, coffee production and value added process, and traditional weaving
Natural Construction: Natural and vernacular building techniques have roots in every culture around the world, but share the distinction of using local materials, being energy efficient, and having a low ecological footprint. Natural building techniques allows individuals to use their hands and feet to form earth mixed with sand and straw, a sensory and aesthetic experience similar to sculpting with clay.
For groups interested in natural construction, Utz K is in the process of developing an eco-campus on their piece of land which also functions as a coffee farm and permaculture landscape. All of the building are constructed from local materials with minimal carbon emissions and a focus on ecological design to help the structure become a regenerative part of the piece of land.
Permaculture and Agroecology: In many ways, permaculture thinking has appropriated and made the indigenous legacy its own. Long before the philosophies of permaculture and agroecology became popular, indigenous people were using nature’s patterns to create polycultural, perennially based, energy efficient homes, gardens, farms, and communities.
For groups or learners interested in permaculture, farming, and agroecology, Utz K offers workshops on its campus land which is in the process of being transformed into a productive food forest landscape. This workshop draws from the regional indigenous knowledge about organic farming, agroforestry, sustainable development, and applied ecology.
Coffee Production and Value Added Process: Coffee in Guatemala has a dark history. The piece of land where the Utz’ K’aslimaal Collective is located was originally forcefully appropriated from the Tz’utujil people via laws passed in the late 19th century that took land away from indigenous peoples to make way for coffee plantations. These same laws also forced indigenous people to work on the plantations, in labour drafts and through debt slavery.
Today, around Lake Atitlan many indigenous farmers are smallholders who are either working independently of one another, loosely associated by proximity and cultural ties, or formally affiliated in cooperative associations. While only a small step toward rectifying centuries of injustice, fair trade coffee is helping to improve the situation for Guatemala’s small coffee farmers.
Utz K offers workshops on the whole process of coffee production from the farm to the cup.
Traditional Weaving: In the ancient world, Maya textiles were recognized and revered as pinnacles of artistic achievement. After the arrival of the Spanish, many Maya cultural forms were destroyed, but weaving remained. Today, in many indigenous communities, women continue to wear traditional clothing, which includes brightly patterned skirts and loose-fitting handwoven smocks, known as huipils, made from a backstrap loom. Traditionally, the patterns on a huipil represent a woman’s social or marital status as well as signify her hometown and express her personality.
Utz K facilitates workshops in which participants learn from local women about traditional techniques of spinning, dyeing, and weaving, and their respective cultural significance. As part of the workshop, participants explore the weaving traditions and dying techniques found in San Juan La Laguna.