Drawing on historical research in the northern highlands of Ecuador, the authors summarize how 75 years of state-supported agricultural modernization and subsequent food policies have led to diverse, wide-scale socio-environmental decline. Despite this global trend, they find considerable heterogeneity in familylevel farming and food practices, with highly diverse and important implications for human health, economy and the environment. Following a study of ‘positive deviance’, they argue that certain production-consumption patterns are more sustainable than others, representing a time-proven, yet largely neglected resource for policy reform. Nevertheless, Ecuador’s investment in modern food poses formidable institutional challenges to change, while sparking increasingly influential social counter-movements.
Keywords: Farming and food practices, heterogeneity, sustainability, Ecuador