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Inca Food, Farming & Agriculture Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Leila Brollosy Pullum

Leila has taught a variety of elementary school grade levels over the last four years and has her master's degree in educational studies.

The Incas were talented farmers. Their ground-breaking food discoveries and agricultural practices have left a lasting impact on the modern world. In this lesson, you will learn about the farming techniques and the food that fueled their hard work daily.

Farming & Food Storage for the Incas

Imagine you are traveling in the Andes Mountains and you come across neat rows of green grass and hollow carvings where water used to run through. This amazing landscape gives us clues about the Inca's revolutionary farming techniques. Much of their history was destroyed by the Spanish conquerors, but what remains can teach us about their advanced society.

The Incas had to create flat land to farm since they lived in the mountains. They did this by creating terraces. Terraces were carved steps of land in the mountainside. Not only did this genius way of farming help them grow crops, it was also great for irrigation and preventing drought. To make sure there was enough food year-round, the Incas freeze-dried food and stored it in special storehouses.

An agricultural terrace designed by the Incas in Peru
terrace

Sacred Land

Fields were sacred to the Incas. Farming in the harsh Andean ecosystem was seen as war: farming was so difficult that the people would sing and pray while farming and offer sacrifices to the gods upon the arrival of the first harvest to show their thankfulness.

Cuzco was the Inca capital, and the harvest from the fields there would be used as offerings in sacred shrines. The Inca king would till the first soil of the year with a golden plow in hopes the land would be blessed and yield a bountiful harvest. Today, this area is known as the Sacred Valley and was considered the heart of the Inca Empire.

Fields of amaranth (a grain) in the Sacred Valley
Sacred Valley

The Inca's Daily Diet

Incas would eat two meals a day and the mostly vegetarian diet would be full of potatoes, quinoa (a type of grain, pronounced: keen-wah), as well as maize (corn) and berries. The meat they did eat on a special occasion was guinea pig, llama, deer, duck and fish.

Quinoa (a grain) was an important food for the Incas
purple quinoa

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