Living in Northern California is an incredible blessing. We are located in a world center of organic farming. While much of what is grown organic certified in California is shipped to the rest of the United States, much of it stays here!
My favorite place to buy organic produce, as you probably know, is the Berkeley Bowl. However, when I am in Santa Rosa at the office, I can also buy my organic produce at Safeway, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or Community Market. All of these locations also have a nice selection of organic veggies.
Traveling in Latin America I am often limited to conventional produce, and eating foods that are heavy on the starch - like beans, rice and plantains.
Thus, the first thing I do when I make it back to Northern California is load up on organic veggies and start making salads.
Our office in Santa Rosa has an amazing kitchen, and almost everyday I am in the office I make a salad for our team. I am by no means a master salad maker, but I have learned some tricks from some incredible chefs, and have done a lot of experimentation.
I prefer to include 10+ ingredients, make my own salad dressings with an olive oil and citrus juice base, and chop the salad so that each bite has an explosion of diverse flavors. I always go vegan with my salads, and will only use about one or two cooked elements.
Sometimes I will include organic berries, organic apple, organic pear, or organic persimmon, in the salad to add a sweet component.
My feeling is that the organic salads help to provide me the extra physical and brain power I need to keep my energy level high to achieve our goals.
Here is a list of some of my favorite salad ingredients, always organic: Pepper (red, green), Kale (Red Russian, Curly, Dyno), Lettuce (Boston, Gem), Carrot (Multi colored if possible, Purple Cabbage) Baby greens (kale, chard, mizuna, arugula, spinach), Onion (green, red, yellow), Roasted Sweet potato (orange, purple), Roasted Squash (delicada, acorn, butternut), Herbs (cilantro, parsley, mint, dill, basil), Quinoa (red), French Lentils, Olives (black, pitted), Beets (orange, red, always grated), Cucumber (Armenian), Tomato (grape, heirloom).
In the last few months we've received several inquiries from fruit importers in South Korea in search of a steady supply of Hass avocados from Mexican origin.
When we got our first inquiry from Seoul a few months back we didn't think too much of it.
But after additional emails came to our team, we decided to do some research and look further into the topic.
We'd known about the avocado growth in China for some years, but we hadn't heard much about South Korean and the accelerated demand for conventional and organic avocados.
As it turns out, South Korea is becoming a growing destination for wholesale avocados from Mexico and other parts of Latin America.
We found a great article from fruitnet.com which highlights just how powerful the growth in demand is from South Korea. Here are some of the statistics that we have found:
2017 imports to reach 5000 tons in 2017 up from 2915 tons in 2016.
Sixfold increase in hass avocado imports from 2010 to 2016.
In 2010 there were only 457 tons of hass avocado imports.
Leading Korean retail chain Lotte Mart says avocados rank 6th on the list of most popular fruits sold, up from 11th in 2015.
We also found some articles regarding South Korea's interest in signing a free trade agreement with Mexico in order to increase the volume and decrease the cost of shipping agricultural and food products from Mexico to South Korea. Avocados were cited as one of the major crops of interest to South Korea.
But Colombians Are More Familiar with the Massive Avocado Varieties
Here in the United States (outside of Florida which grows tropical varieties), when people think of the avocado, almost everyone pictures the Hass. The small green fruit that ripens black and has a luscious, oil rich, fatty green pulp. The one we put in our guacamole. The avocado that is shipped from California and Mexico to the continental United States, and has skyrocketed in popularity over the last 10 years.
However, if you ask someone in Colombia about avocados (or as they call them, aguacate) they picture a big, watery fruit with a thin green skin. There are many varieties of tropical avocados planted all over Colombia, but most are larger and less fatty then the Hass variety common in Mexico and California.
It's common to find street vendors in Bogota and Medellin (the two major cities of Colombia) selling enormous avocados to the public. The Colombians donât think twice about seeing these gigantic avos. However, as a ''Gringo'' I canât help but be amazed that avocados can be enormous!
The Hass avocado is now making it to supermarkets in Colombia but only as a secondary option for exporters unable to ship B grade or smaller sized fruits. Many Colombians have told me they prefer the traditional varieties, and experts believe it will take years, if not generations to fully adopt the Hass as a popular domestic variety.
Most commonly, I see these massive avocado varieties at restaurants in sliced form as part of a traditional plate that may include rice, plantain, and meat.
It is unlikely anything besides the Hass will be exported to the United States due to a strong domestic demand, weak US demand, and the fact that the tropical varieties of avocado donât store and ship as well as the Hass.
I admit that when the owners of Simply Natural told me four years ago that they were going to plant a massive organic mango farm I was a bit skeptical. I trusted their skills and vision. The property they acquired was beautiful and ideal, but I knew how difficult organic commercial mango production can be.
Well three years later, everything looks amazing. These guys really nailed it!
The ponds that were constructed have filled with rainwater, the initial trees looks very strong and healthy, all the paths are well constructed, the nursery is thriving, and the fertilizer programs seem to be working extremely well.
The views are as beautiful as ever. I am really excited for their commercial harvests of Lady Victoria mangos to begin so that I can eat them myself. It's truly one of the best varieties of mango I've ever tried and it will be extra special since I remember seeing the first mango trees when they were planted a few years ago.
The farm has come a long way, but I'm sure a few years from now, the farm today will look like a shell of what is to come.
I took a bunch of photos to share with you. I recommend visiting the farms if you are interested in buying an investment, buying fruit, or just genuinely interested in commercial tropical agriculture.
A Visit to an Organic Veggies Farm in Northern California
My Peruvian friend has a large rural property in Southern Peru. He has a vision of developing a large scale commercial fruit farm using organic, permaculture and biodynamic practices. Our team is planning to be a marketing partner for the project.
As part of the R&D process my friend invited me to visit a small-scale organic vegetable farm located in Sebastopol, Sonoma, California.
On only a couple hectares of land, the family is intensively growing organic kale, chard, lettuce, herbs, and a variety of other greens year round. Season vegetables are also cultivated, however the hearty greens are the centerpiece of the operation.
The farm is meticulously managed, using a variety of no-till permaculture practices. According to the owners Elizabeth and Paul;
''Tillage is widely known and proven to destroy soil. Plowing and roto-tillling destroy the life in soil and deplete soil of vital nutrients by volatilizing those nutrients into the atmosphere creating abundant, potent greenhouse gasses. Our No-Till system of soil management has brought back tremendous health to our soil, raising our soil organic matter (the life of our soil) by over 400% in just 6 years. Greater soil healh means greater crop health and greater nutrient availability for the plants to take upâ¦.and for you to eat.''
In addition to the bio-intensive production, the family has a small greenhouse for starting the plants, and a low-tech composting operation.
There seems to be an agreement among these world class agriculturalists that greater soil health, and reduced problems of pests and disease can be achieved by leaving the soil alone. Even though tilling can still be an ''organic'' practice, it often disturbs the ecological balance of the land, and leads to increased requirements for controlling pests and disease with external inputs.
If you are going to be in the Sonoma area and interested in learning about organic farming, permaculture, and intensive organic vegetable production, it is definitely worth taking a tour.
On my first ever visit to Colombia I stayed a night at a hostel in Bogota. In my bedroom there was a poster of a place called ''CaÃ±o Cristales.'' I couldn't believe that this place from the poster was real.
CaÃ±o Cristales has a color changing plant species that turn different shades of red based upon the time of year, currents, temperature and other variables. Furthermore the minerals in the water settle in the bottom of the river and create a vibrant gold color. And on special days, legend has it the river will have 7 colors at one time!
A couple years after this first visit, I decided to take a detour from visiting farmers in Colombia to do some tourism at the CaÃ±o Cristales. Only a few years ago tourism to this location was too dangerous since it was a strong hold of the FARC and drug cartels. But as part of a recent agreement the area was given back to the country and recognized as a militarized safe zone.
My adventurous side kicked into full gear and I booked the flight to CaÃ±o Cristales with my cousin Josh who was visiting from Arizona.
It was truly one of the most spectacular and surreal natural experiences of my life. It could only be described in photos, which don't it proper justice.
The experience ended in sitting under a waterfall, feeling fully immersed in the moment.
Colombia is blessed with physical beauty that is unique and world class. I feel blessed to do farm sourcing in such an amazing country that offers these types of tourism adventures.
It seems that wherever I travel in the tropics there is always an abundance of mango during the mango harvest season.
Mango is a tree that gives out an incredible amount of fruit each year, perhaps 1000 pieces on a mature mango tree.
Furthermore, most of these mangos that I come across in the tropics are not from agricultural operations. They are mangos that grew wild from people and wild animals moving around seeds, or perhaps mangos that were planted by local community members years ago, that continue to thrive.
The mangos that are exported and end up on supermarket shelves or packaged products are almost entirely from cultivated mango orchards. The documentation, traceability, and quality control of wild mangos makes it very different to commercialize on international markets.
During mango season, there is way more mangos than people know what to do with! Thus, it's not uncommon to see perfectly good organic mangos fall to the ground beneath the tree. As a foreigner who pays $3 for an organic mango in the United States, it a hard pill to swallow to see all those ''wasted'' mangos. But to the locals in Panama, the ''wasted'' mangos is actually an issue because it can create sanitary and cleanliness issues for towns and cities.
In this case, one man's trash is another man's treasure.
I took some mango photos using my cell phone when touring the Simply Natural Farms during a harvest season. All the mango trees at Simply Natural are properly maintained using proper organic horticultural practices. It is interesting to see the difference in the size and quality of fruit from the cultivated mangos versus the wild ones.
The wild mangos often have lots of fibers, and a less sweet taste, making them less interesting for consumption than the more well known Kent, Tommy, and Keit varieties.
My first interest in organic lime imports from Mexico came in 2014 when there was a major shortage in the United States and lime prices spiked the a crazy price per case.
At that moment some people in the industry were calling around to see who had access to limes.
Since then, I've kept my eye on limes and paid attention to the markets and supplies. At the produce trade shows I always made it a point to learn about limes and meet lime growers, especially from Mexico.
In doing research I reread an important lime related article from Time Magazine written in April of 2014. The article by Katy Steinmetz titled ''Why There Is No Lime Industry in America Anymore'' does a great job of explaining the history of industrial limes and taking a snapshot of the lime crisis at that moment in April of 2014. When the article was written a 40 lb box of limes in San Francisco was selling for $120.
In the 1960s all the US limes came from Southern Florida, specifically Homestead. Homestead is known a mecca in our industry for the breeding of tropical and sub-tropical fruits. Back in the day it was regarded as a production center for limes.
However, hurricane Andrew in 1992 pretty much wiped the lime industry in Homestead off the map overnight. In Veracruz, Mexico, entrepreneurs saw the opportunity and began to plant Persian limes in great quantity. Mexico has cheaper labor costs and land prices, and was able to gain a competitive advantage.
Although some of the larger companies in Southern Florida replanted, a disease known as citrus canker spread in the lime industry, and soon after all the lime trees were mandated for eradication.
At this point, given the low costs of production in Mexico, and the high risk of hurricane and disease in Florida, the US pretty much gave up the industry to the Mexicans, who dominate the US lime market. While California is a major producer of lemons with 41,000 acres as of 2014, limes made up only 400 acres at that time. Lemons are more cold tolerant and a safer bet for those cool Pacific evenings.
Fast forward a few years to today and the US market continues to be dominated by lime growers from Mexico, led by the region of Veracruz.
It will be interesting to see how the industry in Mexico evolves in the next few years, and how the rise in organic demand will impact the growing industry south of the border.
with Michoacan Organics & Dr. Jose Maria Anguiano Cardenas
October 13th and 14th, 2017 Michaocan Organics hosted a 2-day workshop training lime farmers in the Veracruz region of Mexico on the basics of organic and biodynamic farming practices specific to citrus and Persian lime cultivation.
Leonel Chavez, CEO of Michoacan Organics, identified the need earlier this year to help organize, and train farmers in the region in organic practices. There is a strong and growing demand for organic Persian limes from Mexico, but a lack of consistent supplies that are truly organic.
Veracruz is one of the worlds premier grower regions for Persian limes. However, the small lime farmers of Veracruz are disorganized, and as such, their prices are lower than what the market is willing to pay. By getting organic certified, and organizing into associations and groups, the farmers can greatly increase their profits, and expand their farming land. Michoacan Organics is hoping to play a leadership role in this process, and work with the growers in the future to export their commercial organic lime harvests to international markets around the world.
Leonel has taken the initiative by financing these workshops and partnering with world class organic Persian lime agronomist Dr Jose Maria Anguiano Cardenas to lead the classes. The training went into the technical side of how to farm organically, and gave some hands on workshops with making highly effective organic fertilizers.
We are excited to see the results of this workshop and learn more about the transition to organic production in the region.
Colombia is best known for its export of coffee and flowers. However, the country is also a major exporter of bananas and plantains. Agriculture entrepreneurs on the Northern coast of Colombia have realized great success growing and exporting bananas and plantains through the years.
The prolonged violence over the last half century in Colombia resulted in a limited fresh produce distribution infrastructure. It was often too costly, too risky, or it would take too much time for agriculture producers to send their fresh produce harvests from the interior of the country to the ports on the Caribbean and Pacific side. This is now starting to change in a positive direction.
However, in the Northern part of Colombia in areas such as Uraba, Cartagena and Santa Marta which are close to the coastal ports, and have favorable agriculture conditions, fresh produce cultivation and exportation has been a feasible venture for some years.
One young entrepreneur, Juan Esteban Barrenche, has activated agriculture production in the Northern region. Juan has converted his family's cattle plantation into a thriving plantain growing operation. Los Martillos is growing commercial conventional plantain on 200 hectares of property. There is a strong domestic demand for plantains from Colombian supermarkets, and commercializers who buy plantains at the farm and then export the product internationally.
In 2017 Juan Esteban began exporting his own products to clients directly in England and France with great success. He is looking to expand his operation to 2000 hectares in the coming years.
On my visit to the Los Martillos farm I was very impressed with the quality of labor, organization of operations, and the consistency of quality and output. The workers were treated like family and there was a very good energy and enthusiasm from everyone involved with the operation.
The property of Los Martillos borders the Caribbean ocean shoreline and makes for one of the most beautiful locations for a plantain farm. Juan travels between his office in Medellin and Uraba where the farm is located; however, he will tell you that his heart is in the countryside and on the farm. He enjoys spending as much time as possible on the farm with his family.
As food service providers and consumers in the United States and Europe learn more about the culinary diversity of plantains, and the health benefits, the demand has been quietly growing. Plantains were once a culturally exclusive product enjoyed by Latin Americans and others who live in the tropics around the world. I believe that the plantain has a huge future with non-Latin consumers who are starting to learn about this wonderful fruit.
One of my favorite places to visit in all of the Americas is the Zill Nursery in Costa Rica. Zill is perhaps best known for his commercial fruit tree nursery located in Southern Florida; however, this little known gem in Orotino, Costa Rica is super cool.
The nursery is a genetics hub where Zill is collecting and testing a variety of tropical fruit tree genetics from all over the world.
On this trip our team was checking out jackfruit, avocado, mango, and durian. We were lucky enough to harvest from massive jackfruits and mango. There are over 80 varieties of mangos located at the nursery. We tried about 10-15 of the varieties.
We are grateful for the work of Mr. Zill and his team in Costa Rica. It is a great resource for finding awesome commercial genetics.
We've attached some more images from the Simply Natural farm in Panama taken by their team. These photos include the nursery, plantains, and the organic mangos at different ages.
Simply Natural has hit their three year mark since their first Lady Victoria mango tree was planted at their new farm in Cocle, and the plants look healthy and happy.
The mango harvest season in Panama is around May to August each year. This past year, Simply Natural made their first harvests. It wasnât for commercial markets since the harvests were sparingly, and minimal.
Starting the 2018 season and beyond, the company will increase harvests and begin to sell their fruit commercially; fresh to domestic and international markets, and processed in dried form for international customers.
Simply Natural is already harvesting their organic certified plantains and selling them domestically to leading supermarket chains Grupo Rey, RibaSmith, and Machetazo.
It's worth noting that the images are very 'green.' The grass surrounding the mango trees and climbing up the hills in the valley are bright green. However, for much of the year, the color is a golden color. This gold color is a natural occurrence. The Simply Natural mango and lime farms are located in a region of Cocle, Panama known as the dry arch. From December to May, for about six months, its common for there to be little to no rain. The intense equator sun will dry up much of the life, often taking away the green color to the landscape.
Mango trees are drought tolerant, and in fact, to get ideal fruiting, and high quality fruit, a period of drought can help. The Lady Victoria mango has been perfectly adapted to this micro regional climate, and we are anticipating organic mango yields that will go beyond the projected totals. However, the agriculture engineers at Simply Natural have decided to install a sophisticated irrigation system in the mango fields in order to assure a controlled growing environment and harvest results.
Plantains are a crop that harvests in 9-10 months and they also have been installed with a controlled irrigation technology that is both efficient and effective with the water and nutrients.
In the industry consistency of harvest quality and volume is critical. Confidence is gained, and deals are won and lost with consistency. Simply Natural is taking the steps to achieve consistent yields of their crops at the highest quality for domestic and export markets.
Those who have friends or family who are active in spiritual communities in Latin America and California are certain to have encountered Palo Santo. Palo Santo is regarded as a spiritually cleaning tool to help elevate and cleanse the energy of a physical space. Regardless of if you believe in the spiritual realm, palo santo in my opinion smells amazing and can really activate the physical space.
In the last few years I encountered a company, One Love Holistics. The company is commercializing Palo Santo products (sticks, oils and jewelry.) It is a mission driven entity that is truly supporting the producers creating the products. The company is authentically marketing the product lines and communicating their vision and producer stories from their website and Instagram handle.
Below is an expert from their website that provides some background to their product and mission.
"One Love Holistics specializes in artisan handcrafts, sustainably sourced botanicals, & natural lifestyle products gathered from around the world. We believe in creating globally unified micro-economies through the universal art of craft. Adhering to fair trade standards of labor conditions and our materials sourced, we ensure an ethically sound, love-infused, full circle system of commerce from the origin of every product to its final recycle. We give back to the communities that give to us, and work passionately in the cultivation of the highest quality relationships and products. It is through a lovingly dedicated commitment & the power of creative collaboration with all involved, that we continue to push forward the collective vision of One Love Holistics daily."
Michoacan Organics is bringing Papayas to the United States
Papayas are a delicate fruit, and shipping them commercially to the United States from Mexico is not for the faint-hearted.
Furthermore, commercial organic papaya is relatively unseen in the US market. Michoacan Organics has taken a pioneering role in the export and commercialization of organic papaya to the United States.
It has taken over a year of trial and error to really master the supply chain for this delicate fruit.
Highly tropical, the papaya requires great attention to detail in order to maximize shelf life, maintain a great color, and obtaining the perfect flavor.
If the papaya is harvested premature, i.e. fully green, the fruit will have a great shelf life, but as it ripens, it won't achieve that beautiful golden orange color. It is more likely to ripen a brownish color. And the flavor will be bland and gross. It is not a papaya that people will want to eat.
If the papaya is harvested mature, i.e. mostly yellow, the fruit will taste amazing, but the shelf life will be extremely limited and quickly go bad. The supermarket will end up having to throw out most of the papayas and will ask for a refund.
The perfect commercial organic papaya is harvested green with 1-2 rays of yellow color starting to "break." When harvested at this color the fruit will maintain a nice shelf life, while simultaneously achieving a wonderful flavor.
Michoacan Organics is now designing the organic papaya box as it prepares to launch to the market in early 2018 with its branded papayas grown in Colima, Mexico, and shipped directly to the United States upon harvest.
On Leonel's organic Haas avocado farm in Mexico you won't find a well manicured farm. It certainly doesn't look like the monoculture almond or citrus orchards you see when you drive up and down route 5 in the Central Valley of California.
To the untrained eye, Leonel's farm looks like a messy, unkempt perhaps even abandoned, avocado orchard. A diversity of weeds grow wild, several avocado trees around the property are sick and overrun with pests and the pine forest encroaches onto the farming area.
After spending an afternoon, or several afternoons, walking the farm with Leonel, you learn that there are no accidents. Everything from the weeds, to the containers of fermentations, to the biological corridor, and insects is designed.
Leonel practices the fundamentals of organic agriculture, and integrates it with techniques of permaculture, agroecological systems, and biodynamics. He takes a holistic perspective, and always looks for ways to create a stable ecological environment.
He has invented a system called "Farming for Life." In this system he does not use any repellants or biopesticides that are meant to kill insects. There are numerous organic certified solutions that are meant to control pests with killing. Leonel doesn't believe in this path. He believes that pests can be consistently controlled via creating a balance so that all elements of the farm are in their right place. Fungus stays in the ground when they are in balance, and pests keep to the biological corridor.
The weeds that grow tall are actually a diversified cover crop routine that aims to maximize insect biodiversity, while adding fertility and top soil to the ground.
Leonel is a master of organic and biodynamic avocado cultivation.
In the last five years I've traveled across Costa Rica, mostly visiting pineapple farms. One of the blessings to visit this lovely country is the abundance of tropical fruits available around the country.
Much of the fruit that is grown in Costa Rica is commercialized domestically at the roadside fruit stands. In all of Latin America, there are few countries with the abundance, quality, consistency and diversity of fruits as seen in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has many varieties of mangos, pineapples, passionfruit, coconuts, mamey, mangosteen, rambutan, papaya, cherimoya, avocados and many other fruits. Furthermore, because these fruits are grown in a variety of altitudes and micro climates around the country, tropical fruits are available for extended seasons.
In this post I've shared a few photos I've taken when visiting the roadside fruit markets in Costa Rica. Pura Vida!
Over the past four years I've made a handful of visits to one of my favorite organic growing pioneers in Latin America, Luis Barrantes.
Luis is from rural Costa Rica, and what started as a one hectare conventional pineapple farm a couple decades ago, has transformed into one of the largest organic pineapple operations after Dole.
In addition to his 400+ hectares of organic fresh pineapples that is grown exclusively for international wholesale export markets, Luis also processes organic pineapples instantly into frozen chunks using a system known as IQF or ''Individually Quick Frozen.''
The IQF pineapple facility is rather small in size, but it operates on two lines in a very clean and efficient manner. The freezing operation provides Luis with a unique advantage as a fresh grower. When markets in his destination countries for fresh, like the USA, are low, he can instead send his fresh fruit to be frozen, stored, and shipped to his clients around the world. This helps Luis to manage his supply chain efficiently. It is a model that I personally recommend to other growing groups as to not put too much risk on the volatility of the fresh markets.
It's always mesmerizing to watch the pineapples go from the truck, to being washed, peeled, cut, cubed, frozen, and packed in a matter of minutes. It gives me a lot of confidence in buying frozen fruit at the supermarket to see L y L's awesome operation.
L y L ships bulk wholesale IQF, and fresh conventional and organic pineapples to satisfied clients around the world.
I had the opportunity to collaborate on the creation of the Michoacan Organics brand. Our objective was to create an artistic and authentic commercial avocado brand from Mexico that represents Leonel Chavez's vision for agriculture. The brand appeals to wholesale buyers of organic avocados from around the world.
Working with designer Molly McCoy and Chris Robb was an amazing experience. Coming from the supply side of the industry I always have a deep respect for my marketing and branding counterparts. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to understand a fresh produce brand design process.
Their attention to detail, and deep strategic thinking designed into every decision is amazing to witness. Before even contemplating the visual design, there was an intense process of understanding the mission and vision of the company and Leonel Chavez, the owner, CEO, and farmer.
The research went beyond Leonel, his farms, and avocados. Molly explored classical art from the region, and the native insects, animals and birds. It was a process of extracting the essence of Leonel and Michoacan Organics and transforming it into a brand logo, a box, and marketing materials.
When I stepped out of the airport in Butuan City in the Philippines I knew I had come to a special place. The first two things I noticed were that the taxis said "Durian City" and there was a huge statue of a durian!
It's true, despite the wretched smell, I am a durian freak. I absolutely love durian. I seek it out at specialty supermarkets in Panama and California, and have spent up to $45 on one durian fruit even when my bank account was low.
It's a fruit that has a creamy texture, succulent flavor, that can only be described as durian. In many parts of Southeast Asia the durian is considered a delicacy, a way of life.
Butuan City is one of those places. I too would like to construct a statue of durian to show my respect to the Durian Gods. It's a fruit that elevates my spirit, and brings me a deep peace.
I was visiting Butuan to get some tours of coconut plants for export development purposes. However, I was also in Butuan to eat durian and visit durian farms.
I was able to visit a small durian farm up in the hills. While there was no ripe durian, I did get to see the fruit growing in its ideal condition. I asked the small farmer the key to growing durian, they were confused about my question because at their farm, it just grows! No pesticides, no fertilizer, they just harvest it when it is ripe.
After my farm visit I was dropped at my hotel and I quickly asked around for where I can go and buy some Durian. To my amazement, there is a small market in Butuan City dedicated entirely to the sale of fresh and frozen durian. What a blessing!
I grabbed a taxi and headed straight to the market.
I found heaven on earth... I went to the first stand and bought a fresh durian. With a huge smile, I ate the first durian and ordered a second one! I took my time on the second one as to be careful to not overdose.
I then proceeded to buy another package of frozen durian to take back with me to my hotel. Back at my hotel I had to pass through security. However, I was stopped in my tracks by the security person who was looking for durian in my bags!
He found it, and made it clear I would have to leave my durian in the outside refrigerator as it was the hotel policy that no one was allowed to enter the hotel with durian, as the smell could upset other hotel guests.
After finishing my tour of the Geisha farm, it was now time to do a cupping of their different lots, and blends.
Garrido has a cupping room where they have artisanal small-scale roasting. On a large round table eight different roasted beans are lined up in glass containers. One by one the beans are ground and then top down poured.
First we start with the Geisha - Caturra blends, which are said to be around 88-89 scores. We grab our metal spoon and sip loudly, oxygenating the liquid embracing the experience in full. I take note of the smells, taste, and overall experience. The 88 score blend had a light floral fragrance and a mellow coffee flavor. While delicious, I had tried coffees before in that range.
As we advanced around the table, sampling the other varieties, we went up on scoring. The flavors got increasingly fragrant with a range of floral, and fruity notes that hit on different areas of the palette.
As a novice to world class coffee I was in complete shock that as we got to 94 scores and up, the coffee literally tasted like fruits. The 94 score resembled pineapple, and the 96 score coffee was as if I had drank a cup of ripe wild blueberries.
Garrido's coffee is available wholesale in small batches green and is shipped to exquisite coffee purveyors in major metropolitan areas around the world.
I learned in this experience that fine coffee is in many ways like fine wine. From the growing, to processing, to pouring, to tasting, there is a deep culture and every detail makes a difference as you transcend from a score in the mid to high 80s (considered high quality) up into the 90s.
In the industry of international fruit and vegetable import/export having a Global Gap or PrimusGFS certification is becoming increasingly important, and in many cases a requirement of distributors and retailers. In 2018 FSMA laws (Food Safety Modernization Act) is coming online in the United States, which is making Global GAP certification more important than ever to fulfill traceability requirements.
Global Gap is a certification that has to do with value chain food safety and traceability. It is a set of requisites and documentation procedures that is designed to provide a greater level of control across the value chain.
According to Bureau Varitas GLOBAL G.A.P. is defined as the following:
"GLOBALG.A.P. is an internationally recognized set of farm standards dedicated to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Through certification, producers demonstrate their adherence to GLOBALG.A.P. standards.
For consumers and retailers, the GLOBALG.A.P. certificate is reassurance that food reaches accepted levels of safety and quality, and has been produced sustainably, respecting the health, safety and welfare of workers, the environment, and in consideration of animal welfare issues. Without such reassurance, farmers may be denied access to markets. Bureau Veritas Certification understands all these issues and can perform the necessary audits to help you achieve GLOBALG.A.P. Certification."
This past week Coopeassa Cooperative outside of San Isidro General in rural Costa Rica, received it Global Gap certificate for exporting their fresh organic pineapples. Certain new signages and upgrades to the farm infrastructure for farm workers was required in order for Coopeassa to pass their Global GAP inspection.
Now that Coopeassa has achieved its Global GAP certification the company will soon be ready to start shipping its organic fresh pineapples grown on small farms to large distributors and retail clients in the United States and Europe.
Our team is interested in attending this produce show in Amsterdam November 15-17. Holland is well known in the produce industry for being a leading buyer and trader of fresh produce sourced from around the world.
Rotterdam is one of the most important ports for agricultural imports in the world. Product that arrives in Rotterdam is shipped all across Europe and beyond.
In our industry having sales outlets for buyers in Rotterdam is seen as critical by larger scale growers/packers/exporters.
Our team has been learning about rising demands of organic produce from tropical and sub tropical regions in Europe, and especially within the German, and Swiss markets.
The United States is an obvious market for Latin American farmers. The size of the market, and geographic proximity is a major advantage. Although Europe is a larger travel distance for Latin American growers, it is still a key export location which is preferred by many growers. European prices tend to be higher, and with more diversified distribution.
Every time I arrive back in California following an international trip, I head straight to the Berkeley Bowl West in Berkeley, California.
In all my travels and visits to supermarkets and fruit markets around the United States and Latin America, I still am yet to find a place like the Berkeley Bowl.
Berkeley Bowl is a legendary supermarket located in Berkeley, California. The original Berkeley Bowl store is located in North Berkeley. What was once a bowling alley, it was converted into a supermarket. The second, and much larger Berkeley Bowl West is located in West Berkeley.
The store is most well known for its produce section. It features organic and conventional produce from local harvests in California, around the United States and internationally. The organic produce section at Berkeley Bowl is larger than most supermarkets entire produce section. Due to the tremendously high volume of foot traffic (i.e. consumers) Berkeley Bowl is able to constantly rotate its produce and ensure that everything out on the floor is fresh.
As a professional in the produce industry I spend a lot of time walking around the organic and conventional produce sections and checking out what's in season, if there are new varieties of fruits and vegetables being sold, or new brands of produce entering the market. As a consumer it is my heaven. I am lucky to have lived a mile or less away from Berkeley Bowl or Berkeley Bowl West for the last nine years.
I've included some photos from a recent visit to the Berkeley Bowl.
Valle Verde has one of the most impressive large scale organic farming operations that I have encountered in Latin America. The company grows organic pineapples on 400 hectares of certified organic land in Pital, Costa Rica. It is a professionally managed, systematic operation that produces a consistently high quality organic pineapple for fresh export internationally, and for the sister company's IQF (frozen chunk) operation.
Valle Verde had to overcome some serious obstacles in the last few years. The company was wrongly accused by its competitors of shipping conventional pineapples as organic to international markets. These accusations were taken seriously and a detailed investigation took place on Valle Verde's fruit and operations.
At the end of this process, in the last few months, Valle Verde was cleared of all charges and has regained its standing as an organic certified pineapple exporter. It's unfortunate that the Valle Verde team had to go through this experience, but at the end, it gives more confidence to their clients that their fruit is legitimately organic, and there is no messing around.
Valle Verde has figured out how to mass produce one of the most difficult organic crops to cultivate in the tropics. The pineapple is a bromeliad and is traditionally found in shady areas. Cultivating the fruit on a large scale comes with a large risk of nematodes, insect pests and other diseases. A strict regiment of preventative measures is required in order to maintain consistent outputs without losses from plagues and diseases.