Since 1999, Dr. Peña has served in appointment as Full Professor of American Ethnic Studies, Anthropology, Chicana/o Studies, and the Program on the Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle. He directed and assisted in the creation of the University’s Doctoral Program in Environmental Anthropology (1999-2005).
Peña is also the founder and President of the Acequia Institute, a private non-profit charitable foundation established in 2006 to support the environmental and food justice movements. The foundation provides small direct to producer grants with a focus on women-led food justice projects. It also funds tuition scholarships for youth from acequia farm communities, and research fellowships to graduate students and early career professors and research scholars.
The Acequia Institute has headquarters in Viejo San Acacio on a 181-acre acequia farm that was once part of the extension granted to the founder of the Plaza de San Luis de la Culebra, Don Dario Diego Gallegos. The farm irrigates from the oldest ditch in Colorado, the San Luis Peoples Ditch (1852). The farm is operated as an ‘almunyah,’ a private grassroots agricultural extension service and research station. Our work is focused on ecological restoration of damaged riparian ecosystems and the revival and extension of indigenous knowledge and practice in soil biodynamics, permaculture, heirloom crop breeding, and seed saving. The entire farm is under a conservation easement that is the first in Colorado history to tie water rights irrevocably to use on the farm land.
A prolific author of several books, two encyclopedias, and numerous journal articles and book chapters, Dr. Peña’s most recent book is Mexican-Origin Foods, Foodways, and Social Movements: Decolonial Perspectives. The 440+ page book was just published by the University of Arkansas Press (September 2017). He is currently working on a two-volume book under contract with the University of Arizona Press focused on a 30-year study of acequia farms in Colorado and New Mexico; forthcoming in 2018 and 2019.