The Raramuri, also known as the Tarahumara, scratch a living out of barren, rocky soil, growing ancient varieties of corn and beans. Most live in caves and tiny huts scattered throughout four monstrous, river-carved chasms—each deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Raramuri make their own clothes and sandals, which consist of used tire tread wrapped to their feet with leather straps. Through deep snow and blistering heat, rugged canyon trails and thorny sagebrush, the Raramuri travel virtually barefoot, the soles of their feet thick with calluses.

Despite their primitive footwear, they are widely regarded as the world’s greatest endurance athletes. Raramuri runners wearing tire-tread sandals have defeated the world’s most highly trained ultra athletes.

Running is integral to their daily lives. Women trek dozens of miles daily gathering firewood and food—often with infants strapped to their backs. Three-year-old children run barefoot through the canyons herding goats. For centuries, the Raramuri have run deeper into their canyons, enabling them to escape the influences of conquistadors, missionaries, and militias and continue living traditionally.

However, in the past few decades, roads have penetrated deeper into the canyons, drug mafias have murdered Raramuri leaders, and timber companies are illegally seizing and logging their ancestral lands.

Barefoot Farm assists the Raramuri’s efforts to protect their ancestral lands and traditional farming culture by providing seeds, tools, and support. We have spent many years with the Raramuri, modeling our own farm after their practices. We have also built relationships with the people, enabling us to provide direct assistance to the Raramuri farmers who need it most. Drought, logging, and soil erosion have made subsistence farming even more difficult for the Raramuri, and many farmers lack the resources to continue growing their ancient varieties of corn. We provide the seeds and tools to enable Raramuri to continue their traditional farming and running culture.

Click here to learn more about the Raramuri by reading this story written by Barefoot Farm co-founder Will Harlan.

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