Office Visit from Raw Vegan Pioneer Aris LaTham

by Keith Agoada

Today we had the honor of receiving nutritional scientist and chef, Aris LaTham to our office in Panama. Aris is the founder and executive of the Sun Fired Institute. He has been a practicing raw vegan for over 40 years and travels the world educating students interested in the art and science of raw food preparation.

Keith Agoada with Dr Aris LaTham
Dr Aris LaTham and Keith Agoada

Aris came over to strategize next steps on creating original content for our digital platform. In November, we will be doing a 3-day production of Aris' workshop on preparation techniques and the scientific background to his juices, nut milks, salads, main courses, and desserts.

The production will take place at Aris' new headquarters for the Sun Fired Institute in southern Costa Rica. Aris uses almost entirely fresh ingredients, and organic when possible. Some of his favorite tropical ingredients are plantain, mangos, limes, avocados, pineapple, and exotic fruits. He also uses traditional vegetables like kale, onions, garlic, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, which he sources from local farmers in the area.

During his visit Aris prepared for us an amazing salad that featured kale, avocado, onions, and a special ingredient of amaranth flowers. The dressing was prepared in a Vitamix and included hot peppers, tomato, onion, and a bit of fresh orange. Aris also had a juice with him: Lettuce, beets and more hot pepper.

We look forward to sharing more of Aris' original content on our Producers Market platform for all those interested in how to prepare delicious cuisines with fresh ingredients, all raw.

Organic Salad by Dr. Aris
Organic Salad by Dr. Aris

El Azúcar Añadida y Los Edulcorantes No Calóricos

by Fiamma Barbieri

Hoy en día son muchos los tipos de azúcares añadidos en los alimentos procesados los cuales son utilizados con el fin de endulzar y crear un sabor de mayor atracción. Agregado a esto también abundan los edulcorantes no calóricos.

Es importante resaltar que el azúcar en cualquiera de sus presentaciones ya sea añadida o natural del alimento es usada por el cuerpo de la misma manera. Con diferencia en que el azúcar natural de los alimentos contienen vitaminas y minerales; mientras que son muy pocos los tipos de azúcar añadida que ofrecen valor nutricional, por lo tanto se componen en su mayoría de sólo calorías vacías.

Los azúcares añadidos orgánicos, tienen en su ventaja:

  • Menor contenido de pesticidas

  • Ayuda a la reducción de la contaminación

  • Más seguro para el agricultor

Pero nutricionalmente hablando al consumir azúcar de caña, jugo de caña evaporado, azúcar morena aun así siendo orgánico, siempre estaremos hablando de azucares añadidos.

Lo recomendable en la categoría de azúcares añadidos que representan una alternativa natural sana al azúcar refinado son:

  • Jarabe de arce

  • Jarabe de agave

  • Miel de caña

La composición de estos jarabes mejoran las respuestas metabólicas (como la de la insulina) por lo que representa una alternativa natural sana al azúcar refinado.

Ejemplos de azúcares añadidos en el mercado: azúcar morena, azúcar de caña, jarabe de maíz, dextrosa, fructosa, glucosa, jarabe de maíz con alto contenido de fructosa, jarabe de arce, miel, azúcar invertido, lactosa, maltosa, miel de caña , sacarosa, maltodextrina, azúcar turbinado.

(La OMS recomienda reducir la ingesta de azúcares añadidos a menos del 10% de la ingesta calórica total

Edulcorantes no calóricos

Dichos no son utilizados por el cuerpo como los azúcares añadidos. Ya que estos no cuentan con calorías, por consiguiente tampoco con hidratos de carbono. En la actualidad la mayoría son sintéticos como el aspartamo, acelsufamo, sucralosa entre otros. Sin embargo existen naturales como lo son estevia y luo han guo.

Lo recomendable en la categoría de edulcorantes no calóricos que representan una alternativa natural sana al azúcar refinado son:

  • Estevia

  • Luo Han Guo

  • El índice glucémico de ambas es cero y están aprobados por la FDA. Sin embargo, debe tenerse en cuenta que al consumir un alimento dulce que no contenga hidratos de carbono, el cuerpo de igual manera mandara la señal y la insulina hará su trabajo, por lo que es recomendable que al momento de consumir un edulcorante de este tipo sea acompañado de un almidón o azúcar.

Ref

St-Pierre, P., Pilon, G., Dumais, V., Dion, C., Dubois, M. J., Dubé, P., ... & Marette, A. (2014). Comparative analysis of maple syrup to other natural sweeteners and evaluation of their metabolic responses in healthy rats. Journal of Functional Foods, 11, 460-471.

Bray, G. A., Nielsen, S. J., & Popkin, B. M. (2004). Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 79(4), 537-543.

García-Almeida, J. M., Casado Fdez., G. M., & García Alemán, J. (4, julio, 2013). Una visión global y actual de los edulcorantes. Aspectos de regulación. Madrid, España.

A Quick look into Amazonas Agriculture

by Chabeli Chain

There are many ways to develop self-sustaining communities but agriculture development is a common theme throughout. Being born and raised in Amazonas-Venezuela gives one a different perspective of organic agriculture development because it is a common activity for the sustenance of large indigenous communities; knowing the fertility of the soil and applying the knowledge of their ancestors to their farming practices.

Venezuela has a tropical savannah climate and spacious "conucos" (pieces of land dedicated to growing) which are developed to provide the ingredients of the traditional kitchen, mainly roots, bananas, fruits and vegetables. This activity provides sustenance for the local communities while the commerce from the sale of the natural products helps sustain the communities financially. Activity that has undoubtedly guaranteed the nutrition and sustenance of communities.

Education in the practice of organic agriculture will help different cultures develop their land, communities and even countries, from the smallest grower to the largest producers, giving nutrition, quality of life and greater sustenance. To promote this activity is to support the balance of nature on the earth, and humanity's needs.

The Lemon

Plantain Ceviche

by Raul Moreno

This fruit is one of the most used in the world. We see it in drinks, salads, seafood, and desserts; every cuisine culture you can think of has something to do with this fruit. It has a sour taste which can be combined with sweet and salty food. In all cases the flavor of the food gets enhanced by this strongly flavored fruit. We are talking about lemon, of course. It is one of the most popular citrus fruits worldwide and it is also used in some of the most popular dishes around the world like ceviche, key lime pie, sour cream and of course lemonade.

Its high concentration of vitamin C (50%) makes it a very useful fruit for fighting off disease. The high concentration of antioxidants makes it a great option to add to our daily basic dishes. Antioxidants are one of the most important substances that should be consumed. Why? Because it prevents inflammation, blindness, heart diseases, reduces cholesterol and reduces overall ageing processes.

I know it can be hard to eat the lemon by itself but you can get creative and prepare some great recipes with it. I have two delicious, nutritious and super simple recipes I can share with you.

Plantain Ceviche:

  • Chop two or three super ripe whole plantains into small slices.

  • Chop half onion.

  • Chop cilantro and any other vegetable of choice.

  • Mix it all in a bowl.

  • Cut two or three lemon and express them into the bowl.

  • Massage it with your hand for 5 minutes so the plantain “suck” the sour flavor.

  • Add cayenne pepper to taste.

Tahini/Lemon dressing for everything:

  • Use four to six tablespoons of tahini (depending on the tahini) and put it on a blender.

  • Add cilantro or any other spice of preference.

  • Add one to two lemons.

  • Start blending.

  • Add water until desired texture.

This recipe is great for any salty dressing, I use it as an extremely healthy sour cream for my tacos!

Plantain Ceviche
Plantain Ceviche

The Lemon
by Raul Moreno

This fruit is one of the most used in the world. We see it in drinks, salads, seafood, and desserts; every cuisine culture you can think of has something to do with this fruit. It has a sour taste which can be combined with sweet and salty food. In all cases the flavor of the food gets enhanced by this strongly flavored fruit. W

 

Woodstock Fruit Festival 2017

A Celebration of Fruit and Life in New York
by Raul Moreno

The Woodstock Fruit Festival is an event that takes place in the countryside of upstate New York. It is an event for fruit and health enthusiasts. There is food, music, workshops, sports and more activities to learn, meet new people and entertain yourself.

All of the food served is raw vegan, and is free of oil, salt, sug

 

ECI - Externality Correction Incentive

by Keith Agoada

*Please note, I am not an economist! These are just my opinions and reflections as a student of business and a lover of humanity and the ecosystem.

Introduction to Externalities

As a young man in my late teens I felt like I was born to rebel against the capitalism structure. It didn't seem fair to me that corporations could legally expose society to the negative impacts of operations without having to pay the true costs of the pain, damages and suffering being created from their immense profits.

It felt wrong that corporations could simply externalize their true costs in an act of evil laziness simply because it was 'legal' to do so. It made me very angry!

Then as a freshman at The University of Wisconsin-Madison I took a class in microeconomics and I learned about production and consumption externalities. I realized that in fact it wasn't 'capitalism' that was making me want to rebel, it was a corrupted and unregulated form of capitalism that was creating deep levels of inefficiencies and limitations in our society and spirit.

In order to unlock our true potential for innovation, sustainability, equity, justice, peace and love we must find a way to correct the rampant negative production externalities.

That's where legendary economists Alfred Marshall and Arthur Pigou came into my life. These are the economist who in the first part of the 1900s developed the concept of the externality. In 1920 Pigou published "The Economics of Welfare" in which he explained that the chimney smoke in London caused economic and social damages to the greater society yet they were not compensated.

Pigou's solution to externalities was for government to impose taxes or an additional cost to the producers of negative externalities. This additional cost is meant to reflect the true economic circumstances, thereby adding cost, increasing market pricing and ultimately leading to a lowered demand or avoidance of the output, and thus a far more efficient outcome. In some cases in some countries there are examples like tobacco, alcohol, noise pollution, air pollution, and other costs which are being properly taxed, but overall, a lot of the costs are not being accounted for.

The Pigouvian tax concept is great in theory, but unfortunately we live in a society in which the corporations that profit from the externalization of true cost also manage the politicians and create the laws thereby making certain these costs remain in the public sector, and profits remain unnaturally high as the rest of humanity sits by and watches our environment and integrity get destroyed everyday. In true university academic fashion, Pigou created a wonderful solution that has no relevance or applicability in the real world.

100 Years Later… Nothing Has Changed!

Fast forward to almost 100 years later. The problems identified by Pigou and Marshall have yet to be solved! The taxes are not creating true economic efficiency. Humanity is far away from reaching its productive potential. We remain in a capitalistic mess of primitive proportions leading to the current collapse of ecosystems and social decay that is facing our species today. I think it's pretty fair to say that Pigou's tax solution isn't working.

There is a devaluing of ecological resources by capital markets and financial institutions. The food at McDonalds, the grains from Cargill and underwear from Fruit of the Loom are dramatically underpriced given their true costs of production that are currently being absorbed by greater society and the consumers of their products.

Carbon emissions, methane gas emissions, destruction of freshwater resources, destruction of soil, desertification, cruelty to animals, consumer health impacts, air pollution, and other costs are not being factored into the price of the goods. If the true cost was represented in the price very few people would be able to afford the products offered by McDonald's, Cargill and Fruit of the Loom. Plus the people who could afford the true price tend to be intelligent enough to understand that these products are crappy and they would be best served to instead purchase higher quality alternatives made from non-toxic, organic raw materials.

This isn't about McDonald's, Cargill and Fruit of the Loom going out of business. This is about these companies transitioning into doing ethical business that is aligned with the personal values of the people who work for the business. It's about creating more profitable business through the action of integrity and ethical sourcing practices. It is about investing in true innovation that aligns human happiness and purpose with business operations. It's about optimizing the power of the human spirit instead of repressing it and destroying it for the sole purpose of maximizing profits for some shareholders that do nothing for the business except invest money into it.

The Post-Externality Value of Resources

One of the greatest impacts of the rise of digital currencies is that it will give power to the average person to invest and transact with currencies that are aligned with their values. It will be instantaneous, and cost nothing for individuals to convert their fiat and other currencies into their favorite digital coin or token. This represents a major turning point for humanity in which the mass of individuals don't have to participate in a currency manipulated by a centralized organizing body that is rewarding corrupted organizational nonsense. Instead, people can chose to participate in whatever wacky idea or wonderfully aligned vision they want to change their money into. The idea of "voting with your dollars" now goes well beyond the action of what we chose to purchase, into the action of what currency we chose to use.

A few months back our founding team started brainstorming if there is another way that we could achieve the efficient outcome of a Pigouvian Tax without the actual power to tax the legally destructive forces of negative production externality.

Welcome to the Era of Externality Correction Incentive (ECI) Bonuses

Registered producers on the PMKT Holding platform will be eligible for the Externality Correction Incentive Bonus ("ECI"). The ECI is an algorithm to correct production cost externalities in the supply chain through a rewarding process that provides additional transactional coins based on the extent that the actions offset negative externalities. Launching in Q4 2018E, the ECI will enhance profitability on transactions for those who do things the right way. The most horrifically inefficient generators of negative production externalities will be eligible for bonuses as well as the start of the incentivized bonus range. The bonuses will start at .0000000001, essentially no reward, and range up to 10.0 bonus coins for those who do things aligned with human values.

PMKT Holding is developing its Externality Correction Incentive (ECI) to provide a weighted bonus issuance of @ag coins to producers based upon their sustainability index rating as a corrective measure to any existing negative or positive production externalities. The purpose of @ag coin is to empower producers with a tool for more efficient transactions, and to supplement producer income with a token asset where value in the real world can be mirrored and stored.

Producers who are efficient and don't put their costs onto society will be greatly rewarded and have a direct economic incentive to move their transactions into @ag coin whenever possible.

Our prediction is that buyers and consumers that would like to support a true economic system of efficiency and equity will prefer to transact in the @ag coin since it will be consistent with their personal values.

Transactions within the Producers Market platform provide a profit margin to the platform. Therefore, at its essence the coins are being rewarded to producers as a dividend back to producers. The coins therefore are being released in conjunction with the profitability and growth of the platform itself to transparently connect the "mining" of coins to the use of the platform. By limiting the mining of coins to registered producers, it fulfils our mission to directly enhance the economic wellbeing of farmers and other producers of all sizes around the world.

This concept is still a work in progress but we are excited to share it with you and get your feedback and input for how we can make the @ag coin the most efficient form of currency for the future of agriculture capitalism, unlocking the full innovative potential of the human spirit.

A New Form of Digital Currency Mining

@ag Coin
by Keith Agoada

Digital currency mining reflects the same extractive primitivism as does the mining of coal, gold, or other natural resources. Once the tulip bulb craze for BitCoins is revealed for what it is, the system will be replaced by one which is logical and uplifting to the human spirit.

Here is one of our ideas for mining system

 

A New Form of Digital Currency Mining

@ag Coin

by Keith Agoada

Digital currency mining reflects the same extractive primitivism as does the mining of coal, gold, or other natural resources. Once the tulip bulb craze for BitCoins is revealed for what it is, the system will be replaced by one which is logical and uplifting to the human spirit.

Here is one of our ideas for mining systems in which applicable value is mined, and the value corresponds to the positive impact the value has on greater society. This is just a rough draft diagram, but we are sharing it to get your feedback and input! We call it the "@ag coin mining distribution process" which is integrated with our Externality Correction Incentive bonus to compensate for the sustainability impact of the mined value production.

@ag Coin Mining Distribution Process
@ag Coin Mining Distribution Process

ECI - Externality Correction Incentive

by Keith Agoada

*Please note, I am not an economist! These are just my opinions and reflections as a student of business and a lover of humanity and the ecosystem.

Introduction to Externalities

As a young man in my late teens I felt like I was born to rebel against the capitalism structure. It didn't seem fair to me that corpora

 

The Time has Come to Pay Farmers Properly

by Keith Agoada

The people who grow our food ought to be paid properly, and not just the people who own the land and pay the workers, but the field workers themselves.

Being a farmer is hard work! It requires consistent physical and mental energy in order to care for crops. Furthermore to be a farmer is to surrender to forces that one cannot control. A farmer can do their best to prepare for success, but there are storms, infestations, crazy neighbors, volatile market conditions and other obstacles that are beyond their control and can greatly impact revenues, costs and profitability.

Once crops are harvested and sold, often times the buyers will delay or discount payments making it difficult for farmers to plant their crops for the next season.

I know this next statement is obvious, but it should be something we remember at every meal of our lives... Farmers are the people that grow the food we eat. Their efforts eventually become our organs, our brains, our cells, our life force. It is what our children put into their bodies. To systematically disrespect and disregard the people who grow our food is to disrespect ourselves.

It's about time that the prices we pay farmers reflect the value that they are contributing to society. Just because it's a profession that 'anyone can do' and doesn't necessarily require a degree from a prestigious University, it doesn't mean it should be a disrespected an uncompensated action.

People who dedicate their lives to create abundance for the rest of us need to be celebrated by the rest of society, and this celebration doesn't just come in the form of saying grace at a meal, or making a Facebook post. It comes in the form of paying them really well for their efforts and the products created. This is an excellent step for human evolution.

Peasant farmers have been screwed across cultures and societies around the world for thousands of years. This is a mirror reflecting the deep rooted sickness of our culture, and the inability of humanity to properly value and respect themselves.

Our purpose in founding PMKT Holding Co, the @ag transactional coin, and the @token digitized assets is to create a new structure that properly compensates farmers. We believe that if farmers (especially organic farmers) are taken care of economically, more people will chose to go into the farming profession, and there will be more abundance of organic food for everybody.

Trillion Dollar Producer Empowerment

by Keith Agoada

We are entering into a new age of currency and its important that we remove our preconceived notion of what a currency is and what it can achieve. Digital currencies has the opportunity to reward producers, the true creators of value so that they can be properly compensated for their amazing contributions to humanity and society.

Leonel Chavez is a founding partner of Producers Market. Leonel has been a farmer his entire life. For the last 20 years Leonel has been using organic practices to grow avocados.

I asked Leonel "when was the last time you were economically rewarded for using the Mexican peso in your farming operations?"

The question took Leonel by surprise. He looked at me with confusion.

The concept of receiving an economic benefit simply by using a currency for transaction and storing of value seems preposterous. Leonel gets paid in Mexican pesos (or US dollars) for the market price of the avocados he is selling. There has never been an additional economic bonus by the simple use of the currency.

Well… Welcome to 2018, the age of digital currency.

Agricultural producers around the world transact trillions of dollars per year in a variety of fiat currencies and barter systems. Those trillions of dollars of value are limited to the value itself.

Assume the value of a digital currency appreciate based upon its usage, then the action of using a currency will increase its value. Furthermore, holding onto that value in the digital currency post-transaction will help to sustain this higher value. The aggregate action of usage and holding onto of currency by tens, hundreds, thousands, or perhaps millions of producers, can greatly enhance the value of the digital currency.

Therefore, selling a container of organic avocados worth $60,000 today could be worth $1,000,000 in ten years if Leonel keeps the transaction in the digital currency assuming the currency becomes highly transacted and appreciates in value.

Furthermore, the limitless boundaries of digital currency and the platforms on which they operate provides algorithmic opportunities to reward the users of the currency for mining and then transacting with the currency providing a direct incentive in addition to the simply appreciation of currency value.

With our @ag coin digital transaction currency and our @PMKT platform token we are developing algorithms that will incentivize producers for using the currency and platform by rewarding them with additional transactional coins and ownership tokens of the platform itself. While much work needs to be done with mathematicians and people much smarter than myself, I am very clear and optimistic that solutions are waiting for us to integrate into our currency and transaction systems to empower a better way of doing business and rewarding farmers for their risks and efforts.

Nicaraguan Chia Seeds

Wholesale Export Changing Lives of Small Farmers

by Keith Agoada

Cultivation of non-traditional export crops is one proven technique to increase the profitability of small farmers in developing nations. By transitioning from low-value domestic crops to higher value organic certified "superfood" crops, it provides the opportunity for 400% or more increase in profitability for the same amount of energy, time and cost as the traditional cost.

This model of agribusiness has been proven by CAC Trading in Nicaragua. CAC has been organizing small farmers into a cooperative, providing them with seeds and technical support, and then aggregating their productive outputs to reach container-load volumes for direct sales to international clients in the United States and Europe.

Over the past year we have had the opportunity to intimately learn about the organic certified chia seeds, and business model of operation at CAC Trading. CAC's model is one that we find to be quite uplifting, empowering and potentially replicable to other developing farm areas in Latin America and globally. CAC doesn't believe in rewarding free inputs to their farmers without a corresponding action from the farmers. They don't believe that charities to small entrepreneurs supports their ability to achieve their long term economic goals. Instead, everyone in their program has to invest, and work for their profits. In their experience, small rural farmers who get things for free don't experience the same level of success and empowerment as those who are paying for their costs.

CAC Trading has found a lot of success from integrating intensive organic chia seed cultivation into the crop rotation of farmers. Furthermore, by reaching a critical mass of small farmers growing chia seeds CAC Trading has been able to access lucrative export clients in the United States and Europe.

Furthermore CAC Trading's CEO, Ramses Ortega, has educated us on the issues of conventional chia seed that is being sold on the wholesale market as organic certified. The company has performed independent third party lab tests and found there to be illegally high high levels of chemicals that are banned for organic certification.

Given the organic authenticity of the CAC Trading's chia seeds, and their empowering business model of chia seed cultivation, aggregation and exportation, we have become enamored with this approach to rural development.

Starting in 2018 we are excited to list CAC Trading's organic certified chia seeds on Producers Market for sale to importers, distributors and retailers around the world. We feel a strong alignment with the mission, vision and values of CAC Trading. Our goal is to establish direct sales relationships for organic wholesale chia seeds packaged in bulk to leading buyers of superfoods worldwide.

Sourcing Trip to Peru

Understanding "Produce Windows"

by Keith Agoada

The first week in December I was fortunate enough to visit Lima, Peru on a trip sponsored by the Peruvian government to meet with leading agricultural growers. My trip was focused on avocado, citrus, berries, grapes, asparagus, mango and bananas. I was very impressed with the professionalism and organization of the Peruvian governments export department along with the growers/exporters in Peru.

The export industry has certainly matured in Peru and it is experiencing a boom in production and sales. It is easy to understand why Peru has developed a strong global reputation as a supplier of high quality agricultural products - especially in the United States and Europe.

Peru is below the equator and thus has a great advantage in terms of fulfilling supply "windows." In the fresh produce industry, the concept of a "window" is extremely important. Nowadays consumers in the United States, Canada and Europe are quite privileged! Eating "seasonally" doesn't really exist. Supermarket customers expect to find fruits all year round. For shoppers in the United States this means buying products grown outside of the harvest season in the United States or even neighboring Mexico. This strong trend has given rise to the growing and exporting of agricultural products from the southern hemisphere to compliment the northern hemisphere growing seasons.

In the United States citrus, for example, is sourced from local farms in California and Mexico during much of the late fall, winter, and early spring. Thus, in this 'window' the demand for citrus grown outside of California and Mexico is minimal, especially in the Western United States, where distributors, retailers, and consumers prefer a local product and the perceived high quality from these growing regions.

However, certain varieties of citrus, like tangerines, aren't harvested in significant volumes from North America during the summer months. This presents an opportunity for growers south of the equator that have the opposite growing seasons to export their products to the United States. This is where the opportunity for countries like Peru become interesting.

Agricultural crops such as citrus, avocados, pomegranates, blueberries, mangoes, and grapes have seasonal windows that compliment the growing seasons in the United States and Mexico. As such, entrepreneurs in Peru now export thousands of containers a year of product to North America to satisfy this off-season demands. It's become big business, and part of the standard expectation of shoppers in the United States.

Visit to the Lima Wholesale Fruit Market

by Keith Agoada

One of my favorite activities whenever I visit a new city in Latin America (or anywhere in the world near the equator) is to visit the wholesale fruit market.

Visiting a wholesale fruit market in Latin America is always an adventure. These markets tend to be complete chaos with a mix of random pickup trucks and other vehi

 

Visit to the Lima Wholesale Fruit Market

by Keith Agoada

One of my favorite activities whenever I visit a new city in Latin America (or anywhere in the world near the equator) is to visit the wholesale fruit market.

Visiting a wholesale fruit market in Latin America is always an adventure. These markets tend to be complete chaos with a mix of random pickup trucks and other vehicles blocking traffic, rotting produce thrown into random piles, fruit vendors calling for your attention, and street vendors of ethnic cuisine which certainly wouldn't pass the food safety requirements in the United States.

The Lima fruit market was certainly a unique experience. While it did have the stereotypical scene as described above, inside the market was very impressive. The fruit and vegetable stands were very clean, well organized, and properly managed. I didn't see rotting fruit, the vendors were chill and respectful, and the agriculture products were properly packed in export grade boxes and packaging. The quality and diversity of the fruit was off the charts. I'd even say that it was the most impressive wholesale fruit market that I have ever visited in Latin America.

My favorite find was definitely fresh Lucuma. As a US consumer I've only tried Lucuma in a powdered form. To find several varieties of Lucuma fresh was a real treat. The fresh fruit tasted almost like a lightly sweet custardy sweet potato meets hard boiled egg. It was energizing, nutritious and filling. Other interesting crops I encountered were:

  • Bananas

  • Plantains

  • Mamey

  • Salak (snake fruit)

  • Citrus

  • Pineapple

  • Avocados (or palta as referred to in Peru)

  • Cheramoya

  • Goldenberries (or cape gooseberry)

  • Cacao

  • Mango

  • Cashew Fruit

  • Grapes

There were also fruits imported from Chile at the market. I came across pears, apples, and peaches. However, the vast majority of the products I found were sourced from Peru.

Overall, I give the Lima Wholesale Fruit Market a 10/10. For fruit lovers and agricultural traders it is a must visit if you are ever in Lima, Peru.

Sourcing Trip to Peru

Understanding "Produce Windows"
by Keith Agoada

The first week in December I was fortunate enough to visit Lima, Peru on a trip sponsored by the Peruvian government to meet with leading agricultural growers. My trip was focused on avocado, citrus, berries, grapes, asparagus, mango and bananas. I was very impressed with the professionalism and organization of the Peruvian gove

 

What is Nutrient Density

Nutrient Density = Nutrients / Calories

by Dermot Doherty

Food contains both nutrients and calories (energy) among other things such as fiber and water. Calories come from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Nutrients are things such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (chemical compounds produced by plants).

Nutrient Density is the amount of nutrients you get from food given the amount of calories (energy) that food contains.

As a simple mathematical formula:

Nutrient Density = Nutrients / Calories

A more nutrient dense food gives you more nutrients with fewer calories.

Dr. Fuhrman's Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI Scores) shows how popular foods score in terms of nutrient density per calorie. As expected, Kale and dark leafy greens are most nutrient dense.

It should be noted that Nutrient Density looks at food in a particular way using a strict formula that compares nutrients to calories and should not be regared as an indicator of that foods overall quality or benefit in your diet. It is simply a number representing how nutrient rich a food is in relation to how much energy it gives you.

What is a PLU code?

How is it used?
by Keith Agoada

A Price Look Up Code is a number often used in the North American and other retail industries. The code or 'number' is found on individual pieces of fresh produce (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, etc) and serves to make store check out and inventory control more efficient. It's a system that has been in place since 1990 an

 

The Food "Dirty Dozen"

12 foods you should only buy organic
by Dermot Doherty

Organic food can be expensive compared to conventionally grown food. Here are some things you can do to optimize your organic food intake and organic food expenditure.

The "Dirty Dozen" is a list of 12 foods that you should only buy organic due to the amount of pesticides used when conventionall

 

The Food "Dirty Dozen"

12 foods you should only buy organic

by Dermot Doherty

Organic food can be expensive compared to conventionally grown food. Here are some things you can do to optimize your organic food intake and organic food expenditure.

The "Dirty Dozen" is a list of 12 foods that you should only buy organic due to the amount of pesticides used when conventionally grown.

  1. Kale

  2. Apples

  3. Pears

  4. Peppers

  5. Nectarines

  6. Grapes

  7. Spinach

  8. Cucumbers

  9. Eggplant

  10. Tomatoes

  11. Peaches

  12. Potatoes

Other organic rules of thumb

Eating the skin rule. If you plan on eating the skin of the fruit or vegetable, the general rule is that you should buy organic. If you don't plan on eating the skin then non-organic/conventionally grown can be ok.

Larger is not always better rule. A large or shiny fruit is not necessarily a sign of Nutrient Density. It could be a sign that the produce has taken on more water due to being a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) or having been grown using an artificial fertilizer.

What is Nutrient Density

Nutrient Density = Nutrients / Calories
by Dermot Doherty

Food contains both nutrients and calories (energy) among other things such as fiber and water. Calories come from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Nutrients are things such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (chemical compounds produced by plants).

 

Simply Natural Organic Mango Farm and Investment

3 Years Later

by Keith Agoada

Simply Natural Organic Mango Farm
Simply Natural Organic Mango Farm

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.

Producers Market: A Platform for Business to Business Agriculture Transaction Internationally

by Keith Agoada

In the coming months we will be launching our trial version of the Producers Market platform!

Producers Market started as an informal conversation more than five years ago between co-founder Chris Robb and I. We were idealistic organic entrepreneurs envisioning an international agriculture trade model with transparency and authenticity from producer to wholesale buyer to consumer.

The vision was rooted in an intent to empower producers and consumers. We have defined "Producer" as individuals and/or businesses who grow, process, pack or add physical value to agricultural products. These are the people that take the greatest risk to create our food. We feel that with the advent of digital and communication technologies, the international trade model is ripe to be turned on its head.

Instead of intermediaries forming walls between farmers and international buyers, we are coming into an era where they are able to sell their goods more directly into international marketplaces. This transition is enabled by smart phone and computer technology that allows producers to share their photos, videos and other content for free, thus providing end consumers the opportunity to connect directly with the people and businesses that are growing and making their food products internationally.

This technological revolution has been made clear when I'm visiting with a farmer in rural Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, or Colombia. The farmers are constantly chatting on WhatsApp or Skype with buyers from Europe, Asia, or North America. They are sending photos of their farm and packed products, and projections of what is going to be harvested. There is a new few of communication happening around the world that never existed in the history of humanity.

These technological innovations over the past 15 years are finally integrating into our agriculture value chain, and it is giving producers the opportunity to make more money, and for consumers to learn more about who is growing their food and making their food products.

It's an exciting time for our industry, and we are happy to be participating via the creation of tools and a platform for producers to make more money on the products they grow and process.

Citrus Exports from Mexico have an Important Role in Global Markets

Mexico is the Leading Grower and Exporter of Limes

by Keith Agoada

For many years I was a typical "gringo" and thought limes were only useful for Corona beer, margaritas, mojitos, and guacamole. But in the last nine years being based in California I've gained a deeper appreciation for the lime. I often start the day by mixing fresh squeezed lime juice with room temperature water, and I often use it in salads (as part of a dressing). I've also seen it become popular with a lot of seafood dishes like ceviche.

Anyway, it seems that I'm not alone in the growth in popularity of limes, like lemons. The wholesale demand for containers of lemons and limes in the US has been increasingly steadily.

Our team has been gaining interest in organic citrus exported from Mexico to the United States and Europe. We see this as a growing market demand given the health benefits of lemons and limes, and the lack of organic production in Florida.

In researching lemon and lime markets we came across a well researched article from freshplaza.com. We've summarized the key statistics below and have included a link to the article.

  • 2017 global lemon and lime production reached 7,252,000 tons.

  • Mexico is the leading lemon and lime producer with 2.4 million tons per year.

  • Mexico exports 630,000 tons of lemons and limes per year.

  • US is the largest importer, 640,000 tons per year.

Michoacan Organics: Organic Avocado Logistics

Farm in Mexico to Store in the US

by Keith Agoada

Organic Hass Avocado Logistics
Organic Hass Avocado Logistics

Tracking the supply chain from farm to store is an important part of our work at Michoacan Organics.

While technically the wholesale organic avocados change possession from Michoacan Organics to customers at the border warehouse in Texas, or the supermarket distribution center in California, it remains important to Leonel Chavez, founder of Michoacan Organics, for the quality of fruit to be maintained in the customer's possession.

Over the years our team has noticed that many times the organic avocados may arrive at the customer's warehouse in perfect condition, however due to mishandling of the fruit by the customer, it reaches the supermarket shelves in subpar conditions.

To our team, this is unacceptable! It's critically important to us that we are able to maintain the quality of the fruit until the consumer buys it at the store. The appearance and quality of the fruit becomes the face of our brand. It is the way we are able to communicate our message and interact with consumers.

Therefore, we only work with B2B customers that appreciate the highest quality organic avocados and are equally as enthusiastic and detail oriented as our team in the handling of the fruit.

When possible we track our avocados within our customer's system and make sure that everything is being taken care of according to plan.

Here are some images within our customers warehouses and at the store level.

Farmer Leonel Inspecting his Shipment
Farmer Leonel Inspecting his Shipment

Lingo of the International Fruit Trading Industry

Part 1

by Keith Agoada

Participating in the global trade of fruits and other products, we have had to learn some new language and terminology in order to play the game. Below is our first list of some of the words and phrases we come across in order to communicate properly with buyers, logistics providers, customs brokers, and exporters. Please note that these aren't textbook definitions, but rather our own understanding and use of the terminology.

"Reefer" - Refrigerated container. A shipping container that has climate controlled refrigeration in order to keep perishable goods at a desired/required temperature.

"Load" - Full shipping container of product, usually referring to a 40' container, but can refer to a 20' or oversized container.

"CIF" - Cost, Insurance, and Freight. It refers to the shipping terms between a buyer and seller. In CIF the seller maintains responsibility for the cost of the goods in transit, including insurance, and freight charges to the destination chosen by the buyer. From the point of delivery, the buyer agrees to responsibility for unloading the product and any additional shipping domestically. In our experiences, CIF usually refers to when the product arrives to the USA port of entry from the foreign destination.

"FOB" - Free on Board. It refers to the shipping terms between a buyer and seller. In FOB it means that the buyer takes responsibility for the delivery of the goods once the goods leave the suppliers shipping dock. In our experiences, FOB refers to when the container of product is at the shippers domestic port and ready to be exported to the USA.

"EXW" - Ex Works. It refers to the shipping terms between a buyer and seller in which the buyer takes the highest possible obligation and risk of transporting the product from the sellers warehouse location to final destination. In our experiences EXW is the price paid when the supplier/seller has packed the product, and loaded the container. Once the container is loaded at the source, it becomes the sellers responsibility.

"DDP" - Delivered Duty Paid. This is a buyer and seller transaction in which the seller assumes all risk, responsibility, and costs associated with the transport and delivery of the goods until they are received by the buyer at their destination.

"Protection" - Providing a floor or ceiling to the pricing agreement for flexibility to readjust pricing to reflect market conditions to allow buyers to maintain their profit margin. In a market of falling prices, buyers may be reluctant to commit to the sellers price today, since the market place is declining. Prices between buyers and sellers often agreed upon days and sometimes weeks before the goods are received at the final warehouse destination. As such, many buyers don't want to gamble on prices falling. Thus, they can ask for "protection" in which the sellers will adjust their final prices downward to reflect a price that is consistent with the state of the market. In our experience, using protection only works well when there is already a degree of trust between buyers and sellers.

"Open" - Buyers will often ask for 'open' pricing or consignment. This refers to a situation where the buyer is not agreeing to the price of the goods until after the products are received and re-sold. In our experience open pricing is used in several scenarios; when market pricing is unstable and buyers won't risk setting a price, markets are flooded and buyers need the flexibility to offer aggressively priced products to the market, or there is a high level of trust between the buyer and seller with confidence that the buyer will be selling the product at the best possible price. Many of the growers that we work with don't like open pricing since they have been burned in the past by buyers that ended up giving very low prices.

"Shipped / Delivered Green" - Fruits shipped and delivered unripe to buyer. Avocados, bananas and plantains are three fruits that we work with in the "green" state. By shipping green it reduces risk of spoilage and allows the buyer to ripen the product in time for delivery to customers.

#1 vs #2 - When a farmer harvests their crop, the outputs are often separated into two export categories often referred to as #1 and #2. In our experience with avocados, the #2 fruit is exactly the same as the #1 in terms of taste, quality and shelf life. However, the aesthetic issues of the fruit makes it a lower valued fruit on the market. Depending upon market conditions, and other variables the price of a #2 fruit can be slightly or significantly lower than its #1 counterpart.

"FTL" - Full Truckload. When the shipment takes up an entire truck and often goes directly from the pickup point to final destination.

"LTL" - Less Than Truckload. When the shipment takes up less than an entire truck, and space is shared with other customers shipments. The price paid for the shipment will be for the space used by the shipment plus additional fees. LTL shipments can take longer since more stops are often required.

What is a PLU code?

How is it used?
by Keith Agoada

A Price Look Up Code is a number often used in the North American and other retail industries. The code or 'number' is found on individual pieces of fresh produce (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, etc) and serves to make store check out and inventory control more efficient. It's a system that has been in place since 1990 an

 

PMA Fresh Summit 2017

The Most Important Fresh Produce Expo in the US - October 19-21
by Keith Agoada

Next week is the highly anticipated PMA Fresh Summit. All the movers and shakers, influencers and industry players will be gathering in New Orleans to meet with existing clients and partners from around the world, and to form new partnerships. It's the who's who in the produce universe.

The event is rather expensive and

 

Michoacan Organics Harvest Bins

by Keith Agoada

Michoacan Organics Bins
Michoacan Organics Bins

Our team, and Leonel Chavez are super proud of our Michoacan Organics brand, and what it represents.

For Leonel Chavez the Michoacan Organics brand represents a powerful vision for farming in which organic agriculture is a driver for positive economic and social force for farmers, consumers, and communities. It is built around his growing techniques that he refers to as "Farming for Life." As a commercializer of avocados and other fruits from Mexico Leonel is concerned with the life of his farm, the life of his farm workers, and the life of consumers. He wants to create systems of agribusiness that are regenerative and working toward harmony, and transparency.

He believes all of this can be done while also achieving a comfortable profit via the elimination of leeching intermediaries and using more efficient techniques for fertilizers, and integrated pest management which reduces costs for farmers.

When ordering new harvest bins at his farms, Leonel made sure to order bins that have his Michoacan Organics logo branded on them. Leonel's pride for Michoacan Organics can be seen in every harvest.

Simply Natural Organic Mango Nursery

by Keith Agoada

Simply Natural Organic Mango Nursery
Simply Natural Organic Mango Nursery

As a frequent visitor to organic commercial fruit farms in Latin America, I've learned that the farm's nursery is a key component to the success of the farm.

The nursery serves a bunch of key purposes to the commercial mango farm:

  1. It ensures that the farm has the best adapted commercial genetics for planting.

  2. It decreases costs to the farm (if the farm has to buy the starter plants outside of the farm it can cost a lot).

  3. Pests and diseases can be properly controlled from the onset of the trees life.

  4. Trees can constantly be culled and selected so that only the strongest trees are planted.

It was very interesting to learn about Simply Natural's organic mango grafting and early care techniques. These guys know a lot about mango farming, and it's great to see that the organic mango investments are in good hands.

Andrew Winstead, former farm manager, and current manager of commercial programs walked us through the process of grafting and caring for the plants.

The Simply Natural team first germinates a locally adapted, and very strong root stock. The root stock sprouts, and grows for six months or a year. At this time the seedling is moved, rather forcibly to a new spot in the greenhouse. I asked Andrew why they don't move the seedling with more grace? He explained that by throwing the bag down in its new spot, it shocks the plant, and responds by building a stronger root system.

Visit to Organic Avocado Farm and Packing House in Michoacán, Mexico

Part 4: Leonel's Farm

by Keith Agoada

As a final stop on my visit to Michoacan, Leonel brought me to his farm. This was the first farm that Leonel converted from conventional practices and certified organic.

He explains to me that he was born an organic farmer. Growing up in rural Mexico with his Mom, Dad, and 10 brothers and sisters, there were no chemicals.

Michoacan Organic Hass Avocados
Michoacan Organic Hass Avocados

They grew their own fruits, vegetables and grains. They raised their own animals, and consumed everything that was produced. They made their own clothing, and were completely self sufficient Anything leftover was brought to town and bartered for other goods.

Leonel didn't even know what agrochemicals were until he was older and moved to the town of Uruapan.

As a young farmer growing citrus and other vegetables, he began using agrochemicals, especially pesticides. He quickly found that by using one chemical, it led to needing another chemical. And then another and another.

He discovered that the use of the agrochemicals put his farm out of balance, which is why more and more chemicals were needed.

Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados
Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados

Furthermore, he isn't bashful to call agrochemicals "poison." He says that he refers to them as poison not to offend or make a point, but that's what it is, poison. And anytime we use poison in the farm, we are opening ourselves up for an endless war against pests and diseases.

After a couple seasons experimenting with agrochemicals Leonel decided he would never use them again. He prefers to create a system in balance with nature, in balance with the 'pests' so that each year his farm becomes stronger and more fertile, not the opposite.

Over the last 20 years Leonel has relentlessly experimented, first with organic practices, then permaculture, then agroecological, and now he is deep into biodynamics the last five years. He calls his system "Farming for Life" or "Agricultura de Vida" in Spanish. It is a philosophical approach to agriculture in which there is no killing of any insect or disease. He explains that there are a lot of organic certified farm inputs that are designed to control pests and disease by killing them with approved chemicals. He is confident that this approach opens ourselves up for the same consequences of agrochemical conventional agriculture. Instead by creating a perfect equilibrium between the ecological and agricultural systems, everything is in balance, or "in their perfect order."

Sometimes you will see an avocado tree being destroyed by a disease or insects. It is almost as if he shows off this tree so that you will ask him why he allows his treat to be destroyed.

Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados
Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados

With a huge grin Leonel explains, "on my farm, everyone needs to eat. Even the pests have to eat." He then points out that all the trees surrounding the one being eaten are in perfect condition. His view is that if the insects have outsmarted him because he was unbalanced ecologically, that is his responsibility, not the insects. Leonel refuses to even touch a fruit fly or mosquito inside of his house. Instead he puts them on a piece of paper and lets them go outside the house.

On this farm visit, Leonel brought me to his nursery which had matured greatly, and was ready to find a home for planting. He's still not sure where he will be planting these trees, but he is very proud of his nursery collection.

Finally, Leonel pointed out, as he always does, how the grass is a fluorescent green color. He explains that the only visual impact of his biodynamics is the color of the grass. Otherwise the only way to understand the impact of the biodynamics is with feeling, going beyond the capacities of the mental state.

It's always a blast to visit Leonel's farm, and to get a tour of an organic biodynamic avocado farm in Uruapan, the heart of Michoacan, Mexico's avocado culture.

Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados
Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados

Michoacan Organics Avocados

Photos from the Store with Founder Leonel Chavez

by Keith Agoada

Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados
Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados

On this blog we've shared a lot about our experiences visiting the Michoacan Organics farms. Now it's time to share with you how the fruit is marketed at the store.

The Whole Foods Southern Pacific region has done an excellent job of telling the story and marketing the Michoacan Organics fruit to consumers in California.")

Here are some of our favorite photos of the Michoacan Organics avocados at Whole Foods.

It is truly a dream come true for farmer Leonel Chavez to see the fruit harvested from his organic avocado farm in Mexico to be sold directly to consumers in the United States.

A true farm to store experience.

Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados
Michoacan Organics Hass Avocados

Organic Salads at Our Santa Rosa Office

by Keith Agoada

15 Ingredients Organic Salad
15 Ingredients Organic Salad

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 in 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 great chefs and have done a lot of experimentation.

I like 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 at most 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).

15 Ingredients Organic Salad
15 Ingredients Organic Salad

South Korea Demand for Avocados is On the Rise

by Keith Agoada

South Korea Avocado Demand
South Korea Avocado Demand

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.

Here is one such example.

Colombia is Growing Hass

Although Colombians are More Familiar with the Massive Avocado Varieties

by Keith Agoada

Colombian Avocado

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 don't think twice about seeing these gigantic avos. However, as a "Gringo" I can't 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 don't store and ship as well as the Hass.

Singing Frogs Farm

A Visit to an Organic Veggies Farm in Northern California

by Keith Agoada

Singing Frogs Farm
Singing Frogs Farm

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 up, 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.

Singing Frogs Farm

Singing Frogs Farm
Singing Frogs Farm

Another Visit to the Berkeley Bowl

Legendary Supermarket in Berkeley, California

by Keith Agoada

Organic Persimmons
Organic Persimmons

As people in the fruit industry, we are amazed and obsessed with the Berkeley Bowl. It continues to amaze us how this supermarket is able to market such a wide variety of the best quality produce.

It is our favorite place to buy organic fruit, and to do organic fruit research in California.

Here are some more images from some visits to our favorite supermarket in the world. This time we captured persimmons, mushrooms, apples, mangos, heirloom tomatoes, and many other items.

Organic Gala Apples
Organic Gala Apples

Organic Cherry Tomatoes
Organic Cherry Tomatoes

Visit to Caño Cristales in La Macarena, Colombia

A Tourism Stop in Colombia

by Keith Agoada

Caño Cristales - Colombia
Caño Cristales - Colombia

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 "Caño Cristales." I couldn't believe that this place from the poster was real.

Caño 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 Caño 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 Caño 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.

Caño Cristales - Colombia
Caño Cristales - Colombia

The Amazing Abundance of Mango

in Panama and the Tropics

by Keith Agoada

Mangos of Panama
Mangos of Panama

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.

Mangos of Panama
Mangos of Panama

Why There is No Lime Industry in America Anymore

The Opportunity in Limes - Time Magazine

by Keith Agoada

Limes

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 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.

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.

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.

Here is the full article from Time Magazine.

Organic Lime Workshop in Veracruz Mexico

with Michoacan Organics & Dr. Jose Maria Anguiano Cardenas

by Keith Agoada

Organic Lime Workshop
Organic Lime Workshop

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.

Organic Lime Workshop
Organic Lime Workshop

Los Martillos

Visit to a Plantain Farm in Colombia

by Keith Agoada

Los Martillos Plantain Farm in Colombia
Los Martillos Plantain Farm in Colombia

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.

Plantain Farm in Colombia
Plantain Farm in Colombia

Hass Avocado in Colombia

World Avocado Congress and Avocado Swimming Pools

by Keith Agoada

Avocado Swimming Pool

Hass avocados are becoming a serious business in Colombia. How do we know? Check out this swimming pool located in Tolima, Colombia.

Colombia has some serious Hass fever. Many in the industry believe that Colombia will be the next big Hass growing region.

In 2019 Colombia will be hosting the 9th World Avocado Congress which takes place every four years in a different country. The momentum for Hass avocados in Colombia is building!

A Visit to Zill Nursery

Organic Fruit Nursery in Costa Rica

by Keith Agoada

Zill Organic Fruit Nursery
Zill Organic Fruit Nursery

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.

Jackfruit
Jackfruit

Simply Natural Farms

More Photos and Additional Perspective

by Keith Agoada

Organic Mango

I'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 Coclé, and the plants look happy and healthy.

The mango harvest season in Panama is around May to August each year. This past year, Simply Natural made their first harvests. It wasn't 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.

Simply Natural Farms

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 Coclé, 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.

Simply Natural Farms

Visit to Organic Avocado Farm in Michoacan, Mexico
by Keith Agoada

In August I had the privilege of spending three days in Michoacán, Mexico visiting with Leonel Chavez, Owner and CEO of Michoacan Organics an export wholesaler dedicated to organic avocado supply chain and sales to the United States.

Leonel is a pioneer in organic avocados in Mexico with more than 20 years experience grow

 

Follow the Palo

Sustainably Sourced Palo Santo Products from Ecuador

by Keith Agoada

One Love Holistics
One Love Holistics

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.

One Love Holistics
One Love Holistics

The Art of Exporting Organic Papaya

Michoacan Organics is bringing Organic Papayas to the United States

by Keith Agoada

Michoacan Organics Papayas
Michoacan Organics Papayas

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.

Organic Papayas, Michoacan Organics
Organic Papayas, Michoacan Organics

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.

Visit to Organic Avocado Farm and Packing House in Michoacán, Mexico

Part 1: Leonel and the Packing House
by Keith Agoada

In August I had the privilege of spending three days in Michoacán, Mexico visiting with Leonel Chavez, Owner and CEO of Michoacan Organics an export wholesaler dedicated to organic avocado supply chain and sales to the United States.

Leonel is a pioneer in organic avocados in Mexico with more than 20 years experience grow

 

Cultivation in Michoacán, Mexico

An Ecological Balance in Organic Avocado

by Keith Agoada

Michoacán Organic Farm
Michoacán Organic Farm

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.

Michoacán Organic Farm
Michoacán Organic Farm

Fruit Abundance in Costa Rica

A Visit to Roadside Fruit Markets

by Keith Agoada

Costa Rica Fruit Market
Costa Rica Fruit Market

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!

Costa Rica Fruit Market
Costa Rica Fruit Market

A Visit to L y L Proyectos

A Leading Organic IQF Pineapple Grower

by Keith Agoada

Organic IQF Facility
Organic IQF Facility

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.

Frozen Cubed Pineapple
Frozen Cubed Pineapple

Designing a Mexican Organic Avocado Brand

Michoacan Organics

by Keith Agoada

Michoacan Organics
Michoacan Organics

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. A brand that would appeal to wholesale buyers of organic avocados from around the world.

Working with designer Molly McCoy and Chris Robb was a great experience. Coming from the supply side of the industry I have always had 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 into every design decision is amazing to witness. Before 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.

A Visit to Butuan City aka "Durian City"

Heaven on Earth

by Keith Agoada

Durian Fruit
Durian Fruit

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.

A Hike up India Dormida Mountain

El Valle, Panama

by Keith Agoada

El Valle
El Valle

Last week I hiked up the India Dormida in El Valle de Anton, Panama to visit friends, get some exercise and harvest some organic citrus for personal consumption.

This hike is one of my favorite places to visit. El Valle de Antón is a habited volcano about 2 hours from Panama City. I've been coming here a lot the last three years.

In the tropics I find that the 600-800 meter altitude range is very beautiful. It's around 70-80 degrees in El Valle most of the year.

My friends Maria and Dario live at the top of India Dormida. I like to visit them, enjoy the views, and buy some of their organic produce they grow in small quantities.

On this visit the organic mandarins were in full force! I paid $5 and filled up a plastic bag with the orange and green colored fruit.

They were delicious! The rich volcanic soil and clean rainwater is the perfect combination for growing flavorful fruits.

Garrido Coffee

Part 2, Achieving a 96 Score

by Keith Agoada

Garrido Coffee
Garrido Coffee

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.

Garrido Coffee

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.

Garrido Coffee

Garrido, Panama Geisha Coffee, Part 1
by Keith Agoada

Having spent the last six years visiting with farmers in Latin America I have consistently been offered to buy bulk green conventional and organic coffee. Most of the time I simply respond that coffee is its own beast, and I stick to the fruits. But, given the coffee culture in Boquete, Panama I decided to take a deeper look.

 

Coopessa Now Global GAP Certified

Organic Certified Pineapple from Costa Rica

by Keith Agoada

Coopessa's Global GAP Certified Organic Pineapples, Costa Rica
Coopessa's Global GAP Certified Organic Pineapples, Costa Rica

In the industry of international fruit and vegetable import/export having a GLOBALG.A.P. 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 GLOBALG.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.

Amsterdam Produce Show & Conference

November 15-17, 2017

by Keith Agoada

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.

Visit to the Berkeley Bowl

Market Study and Nourishment

by Keith Agoada

Berkeley Bowl Produce
Berkeley Bowl Produce

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.

What is a PLU code?

How is it used?
by Keith Agoada

A Price Look Up Code is a number often used in the North American and other retail industries. The code or 'number' is found on individual pieces of fresh produce (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, etc) and serves to make store check out and inventory control more efficient. It's a system that has been in place since 1990 an

 

Visit to Valle Verde

Commercial Organic Pineapple Grower in Costa Rica

by Keith Agoada

Valle Verde Farm
Valle Verde Farm

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.

Organic Pineapple, Pital, Costa Rica
Organic Pineapple, Pital, Costa Rica

Blockchain and Agriculture

Is it the Future?

by Keith Agoada

Blockchain Technology

As the excitement of Blockchain technology has swept across the finance industry and into other industries around the world, many believe that agriculture as well will be greatly impacted.

For those of you who are new to the term, Investopedia defines Blockchain as the following:

"A blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. Constantly growing as 'completed' blocks (the most recent transactions) are recorded and added to it in chronological order, it allows market participants to keep track of digital currency transactions without central recordkeeping. Each node (a computer connected to the network) gets a copy of the blockchain, which is downloaded automatically."

For the international agriculture industry our team envisions blockchain having two short term impacts:

  • Transactions
  • Documentation/Authenticity

With cryptocurrency and utilization of Blockchain technology, these large payments can circumvent the inefficiencies of financial institutions and be completed in moments. As soon as the buyer executes the payment, it can be received by producers. This innovation would be a blessing for many who are in the business of growing, packaging, and exporting agriculture products for international markets.

The second area of innovation useful to agriculture is the documentation and authenticity. Using the blockchain technology could provide an avenue for complete authenticity, transparency and success in the movement of documentation that corresponds to harvests. The organic certifications, Global GAP traceability information, and the details on the transportation and physical storage of the raw materials, could all be built into the blockchain and provide a new level of confidence and accessibility to the credibility of a value chain.

Blockchain the Future of Agriculture

With the adoption of just these two innovations, blockchain technology will have a monumental impact on the agriculture industry. It will be part of a great modernization that is taking place in food safety, transaction, and traceability.

This well written article by Gro Intelligence summarizes the future potential of Blockchain technology within the agriculture sector.

Organic Avocado Nursery

It's all in the Grafting

by Keith Agoada

Young Avocado Trees, Michoacán, Mexico
Young Avocado Trees, Michoacán, Mexico

Commercial organic fruit production generally relies on a process known as 'Grafting.' Grafting is a horticultural technique of asexual propagation in which a desired root stock i.e. seed is joined together with a desired scion. The root stock tends to be a hearty, local variety of the fruit that will provide a strong root system, and disease resistance. It contains the genetics that are adapted specifically to thrive in the local environment.

This root stock is combined with the same genetics from the ideal fruit. Thus, grafting gives the grower the best of both worlds: A hearty, and well adapted tree, that contains a high yielding, top quality fruit. Grafting can also reduce the amount of time until the first harvest is achieved.

When it comes to organic hass avocado production in Michoacán Mexico, grafting is a standard technique. With a high cost of land, and a motivation to maximize profits, it's important to make sure their trees are of the best quality. If a grower is going to invest in the labor, and input costs to grow a tree for three years, they want to make sure that when it's time to harvest, they are getting their best return.

Leonel Chavez takes great pride in his Hass Avocado nursery located at one of the Michoacan Organics flagship farms. Currently he has over 10,000 trees that have been growing, and meticulously cared for over the last 18 months.

Here are some photos at different times from Leonel's nursery located in Uruapan, Mexico. Most of these trees are being grown for use at Leonel and his family's avocado farms. He also sells his Hass starters to other farmers in the region.

Key to Organic Mango Farming in Panama

Neem

by Keith Agoada

Organic Neem Tree, Panama
Organic Neem Tree, Panama

For the last five years I have been helping a fast-growing organic farm in Panama called Simply Natural. It's been truly amazing to see the company grow from concept, to fully established commercial farming operation in such a short period of time.

Given my background in horticulture and relative understanding of commercial organic agriculture, I am always curious what farms do for natural pest control or an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) system.

On this visit I learned that one of their keys to success is Neem. Neem is an incredible tropical tree from India with a 1001 uses. You may have noticed it as a featured ingredient in your holistic toothpaste or floss. In fact it is a very useful tree for commercial tropical agriculture.

The tree has an incredible amount of foliage and acts as a biological corridor, or screen, for pollutions on neighboring land and properties. Furthermore, the leaves contain chemicals that naturally repel a lot of insects that otherwise would be attracted to the mango.

As it was explained to me on my farm visit, the mango farm is surrounded in Neem trees as a natural repellent to a lot of insects.

Furthermore, the berries from the neem trees are harvested and processed into an oil, which is then mixed into a solution that is used as a foliar spray on the mangos and mango trees. This helps to ensure the health of the tree and fruit, and keeps yields at a high level.

Neem trees, like most mango varieties, are drought tolerant. They are happiest when they have an extended dry season. Therefore in places like Coclé, Panama, where Simply Natural is located, the neem tree thrives. Only a minimal amount of water may be needed to establish the tree, but mostly it's a tree that can be planted and left to its nature to grow.

Next time you are enjoying an organic mango, it may be thanks to a nearby neem tree!

Coopeassa: Organic Fair Trade Pineapple from Costa Rica

Now Harvesting

by Keith Agoada

This past week I spent a day with the Coopeassa Cooperative located outside of San Isidro General in Costa Rica. It was an exciting moment to visit with the Cooperative since the group is preparing for their first commercial organic pineapple harvest destined for export to the United States and Germany.

Organic Pineapple from Coppeassa
Organic Pineapple from Coppeassa

Their organic pineapple operation is unique to the other commercial organic pineapple farms in Costa Rica. The Coopeassa farms consist of .5 hectare to 5 hectare plots which are independently owned and managed by the cooperative members. Each of the farms is surrounded by biological corridors rich in trees and diversified plantings. In contrast, the largest organic pineapple player in the world, Dole, has plantings of 500 to 1500 hectares! This is truly artisanal organic farm production at its finest.

Furthermore, the Coopeassa farms are located at 700-800 meters altitude, which is higher altitude than normal for commercial pineapple production in Costa Rica. The general manager of the cooperative, Walter Elizondo claims that the higher altitude is resulting in a fruit that is higher in bric content with a deeper pineapple flavor.

I was lucky enough to get to try a perfectly ripened, freshly harvested pineapple. It was spectacular!

Walter Elizondo, General Manager, Coopeassa
Walter Elizondo, General Manager, Coopeassa

Michoacan Organics Limes

Organic Persian Limes for Export from Mexico

by Keith Agoada

Our team is very happy to announce that our next branded Michoacan Organics product will be Persian Limes.

Around eight months ago our team was notified by buyers that there was a major shortage in organic limes for much of the year. Lime farmers in Mexico are relatively dispersed and unorganized. In the main production region of Veracruz, growers of limes often only have 1-5 hectares of production.

Unlike avocados which has a strong marketing association, organized cooperatives and certified organic farms, lime growers have a long way to go.

Where most see obstacles, Leonel Chavez, founder of Michoacan Organics, sees opportunity. As a lime grower himself earlier in his life, Leonel knows what it takes to grow commercial grade organic Persian limes. He also knows what is required to educate growers on organic practices, and how to manage proper logistics and traceability.

Leonel Chavez, Michoacan Organics Persian Limes
Leonel Chavez, Michoacan Organics Persian Limes

Leonel is a pioneer in organic agriculture in Mexico for over 20 years. Many farmers from around the country of Mexico know and respect Leonel for what he has done organizing workshops, and providing free support to growers looking to get into organic and biodynamic agriculture in Mexico.

Leonel is driven by justice. He believes that farmers ought to be paid respectable prices for the hard work and risks taken in growing their products. He understands that the more organized growers are, the better the prices they are able to achieive.

With this motivation, Leonel and his team on the ground in Mexico have been organizing workshops for organic lime production. He is preparing growers to get certified and increase yields using better growing practices.

Within the next 60-90 days Leonel and his Michoacan Organics team will be shipping out organic certified Persian limes from Veracruz, Mexico, with other regions to come online in 2018. The new Michoacan Organics Limes box is currently being designed, and we will be sure to share it with you as soon as it's complete.

If you are interested in limes for your business, you can contact Leonel and his team at info@michoacanorganics.com to begin organizing your orders for Organic Persian Limes directly from the source in Mexico.

Supermarket Mango Displays

Crespo Organic Mangos

by Keith Agoada

Crespo is a grower, packer and US distributor of organic mangos of Mexican origin. The company has done a beautiful job of vertically integrating their operation.

Our team was researching in-store marketing concepts for farmer direct organic fruits and vegetables. We came across Crespo and some of their mango displays in supermarket locations in the Northeastern United States. We've attached some of the images below.

Not only does the company seem to grow and market excellent mangos, but they also have an awesome website. I was drawn to the information they have put together about the history of Mexican mango culture. This historical summary of Mexican mangos can be viewed here as well.

We certainly plan to reach out to Crespo and learn more about their operations, as we are inspired by what their family has been able to achieve in the organic agriculture business internationally.

Crespo Organic Mango Display, Monadnock Food Coop, NH
Crespo Organic Mango Display, Monadnock Food Coop, NH

Crespo Organic Mango Display, Healthy Living Market, NY
Crespo Organic Mango Display, Healthy Living Market, NY

Crespo Organic Mango Display, Honest Weight Food Coop, NY
Crespo Organic Mango Display, Honest Weight Food Coop, NY

Crespo Organic Mexican Mango Culture Poster
Crespo Organic Mexican Mango Culture Poster

Growing Demand for Persian Limes in Europe

According to CBI Report

by Keith Agoada

Persian Limes
Persian Limes

Founded in 1971 the CBI is the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries. The organization based in the Netherlands is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has a purpose of helping contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic development in developing countries through the expansion of exports from these countries to Europe.

According to the CBI the import of fresh limes to the European market increased by 50% in volume from 2011 to 2015 as a result of its use in food preparation and beverages.

Most of these Persian lime imports are coming from the source countries of Brazil and Mexico. Together these two countries were 94% of the total lime import market to Europe.

The Netherlands is far and away the most important importer of limes in Europe, in part because much of the imports are distributed across Europe.

Within Europe, the Northern Europeans have the strongest demand for limes. Furthermore, there is an increasing demand for limes, and fruit in general that are grown with social accountability and organic certification.

Here's the research article on exporting fresh limes to Europe from the CBI website.

The Fresh Mangos You Eat in the United States are Cooked!

Did You Know?

by Keith Agoada

Have you noticed that the mangos you buy at your local supermarket don't taste quite the same as the mangos you purchased during your last visit to Mexico or somewhere else in the tropics?

Many people think it's a simple case of "freshness." Certainly it's true that a vine ripened mango, harvested at its peak flavor, and consumed right away has a spectacular flavor. It is the ideal way to eat a fresh mango and doesn't compare to a mango that was harvested premature to survive refrigeration and international shipping.

However, a big reason that mangos in the United States don't taste the same is because the USDA requires that mangos that come from most of Mexico, and all of Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil perform a "Hot Water Treatment," i.e. a 10 minute bath at 115 degrees.

This treatment is performed in order to prevent any issues related to the prevention of Mediterranean Fruit Fly outbreaks in the United States. However, the downside of this is that the quality, in my opinion, is impacted. In addition, it would be interesting to find out if this has any consequence on the nutrition of the fresh mango.

You can see on the wholesale box of mango if it has been hot water treated.

This is a photo of an organic mango that I recently bought in California at the supermarket. You can tell that the texture looks a bit off from what you may be used to in the tropics. In addition the flavor profile was just "ok."

Cooked Organic Fresh Mango, USA
Cooked Organic Fresh Mango, USA

Regardless of the Hot Water Treatment I still sometimes buy mangos in the United States, however I usually prefer to buy frozen cubed mango for personal consumption since it can be harvested ripe and doesn't require the bath.

Visit to Organic Avocado Farm and Packing House in Michoacán, Mexico

Part 4: Leonel's Farm

by Keith Agoada

As a final stop on my visit to Michoacán, Leonel brought me to his farm. This was the first farm that Leonel converted from conventional practices and certified organic.

He explains to me that he was born an organic farmer. Growing up in rural Mexico with his Mom, Dad, and 10 brothers and sisters, there were no chemicals.

Leonel's Organic Hass Avocados
Leonel's Organic Hass Avocados

They grew their own fruits, vegetables and grains. They raised their own animals, and consumed everything that was produced. They made their own clothing, and were completely self sufficient. Anything left over was brought to town and bartered for other goods.

Leonel didn't know what agrochemicals were until he was older and had moved to the town of Uruapan.

As a young farmer growing citrus and other vegetables, he began using agrochemicals, especially pesticides. He quickly found that by using one chemical, it led to another chemical being needed, and then another, and another.

He discovered that the use of the agrochemicals put his farm out of balance which is why more and more chemicals were needed.

Leonel
Leonel

Furthermore, he isn't bashful about calling agrochemicals 'poisons.' He says that he refers to them as poison not to offend or make a point, but that's what it is, a poison "and anytime we use poison on the farm, we are opening ourselves up for an endless war against pests and diseases."

After a couple seasons experimenting with agrochemicals Leonel decided that he would never use them again. He prefers to create a system in balance with nature, in balance with the 'pests' so that each year his farm becomes stronger and more fertile, not the opposite.

Over the last 20 years Leonel has relentlessly experimented, first with organic practices, then permaculture, then agro-ecological, and now he is deep into biodynamics the last five years. He calls his system "Farming for Life" or "Agricultura de Vida" in Spanish. It is a philosophical approach to agriculture in which there is no killing of any insect or disease. He explains that there are a lot of organic certified farm inputs that are designed to control pests and disease by killing them with approved chemicals. He is confident that this approach opens ourselves up for the same consequences of agrochemical conventional agriculture. Instead, by creating a perfect equilibrium between the ecological and agricultural systems, everything is in balance, or "in their perfect order" as Leonel puts it.

On Leonel's farm, you will sometimes see an avocado tree being destroyed by a disease or eaten by insects. It is almost as if he shows off this tree so that you will ask him why he allows this tree to be destroyed.

With a huge grin on his face Leonel joyfully quips, "On my farm, everyone needs to eat. Even the pests have to eat." He then points out that all the trees surrounding the one tree being eaten are in perfect condition. His view is that if the insects have outsmarted him because he was unbalanced ecologically, that is his responsibility, not the insects. Leonel refuses to even touch a fruit fly or mosquito inside of his house. Instead he puts them on a piece of paper and lets them go outside.

Michoacan Organics Hass Avocado
Michoacan Organics Hass Avocado

On this farm visit, Leonel brought me to his nursery which had matured greatly and was ready to find a home for planting. He's still not sure where he will be planting these trees, but he is very proud of his nursery collection.

Finally, Leonel pointed out, as he always does, how the grass is a fluorescent green color. He explains that the only visual impact of his biodynamics is the color of the grass. Otherwise the only way to understand the impact of the biodynamics is with feeling, going beyond the capacities of the mental state.

It's always a blast to visit Leonel's farm, and to get a tour of an organic biodynamic avocado farm in Uruapan, the heart of Michoacán, Mexico's avocado culture.

Leonel's Ripe, Buttery, Organic Hass Avocado
Leonel's Ripe, Buttery, Organic Hass Avocado

Part 1: Leonel and the Packing House
by Keith Agoada

In August I had the privilege of spending three days in Michoacán, Mexico visiting with Leonel Chavez, Owner and CEO of Michoacan Organics an export wholesaler dedicated to organic avocado supply chain and sales to the United States.

Leonel is a pioneer in organic avocados in Mexico with more than 20 years experience grow

 
Part 2: Breakfast at Rinconcito
by Keith Agoada

After completing our visit to the packing facility Leonel expressed his desire to have a proper breakfast before visiting his mom's farm. Apparently the tacos and orange juice didn't fulfill Leonel's appetite. I usually start my day with juice, some fruit, or perhaps a smoothie. So the big Mexican breakfast is a bit outs

 
Part 3: Maria's Organic Avocado Farm
by Keith Agoada

In many ways I regard Maria as the mother of organic avocado farming in Mexico, and deservedly so. She is the mother of 11 kids who all grow avocados, and now she has grandkids that are growing organic avocados.

She raised her family on a self sufficient family farm in rural Michoacán, Mexico. Everything was grown for fam

 

Visit to Puerto Armuelles

Abandoned Banana Industry in Chiriquí, Panama

by Keith Agoada

There has been a lot of international banana news coming out of Panama the last few months. Del Monte has signed a contract with the Panama government to invest $100M+ into a new banana operation in the district of Barú.

Old Puerto Armuelle
Old Puerto Armuelle

The President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela states that the program will create 3,100 direct jobs and 12,000 indirect jobs.

A couple years before this announcement, I was in Chiriquí for a project and had a chance to visit the abandoned banana industry. It looked like a ghost town out of a coffee table book. Relics of the banana industry could be found around the port area. The small quiet town seemed to rely on fishing, collecting coconuts, and limited tourism to get by.

Abandoned Banana Rail Car, Chiriquí, Panama
Abandoned Banana Rail Car, Chiriquí, Panama

It is a beautiful port area that certainly has a lot of potential for both commercial exports, and cruise lines for tourism.

It will be interesting to see how the Del Monte conventional banana deal in Panama comes together over the next few years.

I've attached some of the photos from my visit, along with some other old-school Chiriquí, Panama banana era photos that I have found online.

Bananas in Puerto Armuelles
Bananas in Puerto Armuelles

Time for Limes: Conventional and Organic Limes from Veracruz, Mexico

Learning about USDA #1 and #2 Quality

by Keith Agoada

Over the last six months our team has been developing conventional and organic limes supplies directly from growers and packers in Veracruz, Mexico. Veracruz is to Persian limes as Michoacán is to Hass avocados.

Veracruz is the cradle of Persian lime production in Mexico, and worldwide. Located on the Caribbean side of Mexico, packing facilities in Veracruz sell their limes all over the world. Veracruz has 12 months of production, however there is a low season from about March to June.

Box of Fresh Limes Veracruz, Mexico
Box of Fresh Limes Veracruz, Mexico

While our main focus is developing organic lime supplies we have started with conventional since that is what is available and it gets us in with the people growing and packing limes.

Getting into new fruits there is always a learning curve. Limes has been no different for us. We are learning that one of the key determinants of quality is the color. If there is too much yellow in the fruit it may not be considered a USDA #1, and thus may have to be discounted by the buyer in the US. This is exactly what happened to us on the second shipment we made to New York.

Anticipating a drop in production because of an upcoming hurricane to the region, we worked to get a load out to a new client. While the juice was of top quality, the color wasn't ideal and as such, it had to be discounted upon arrival.

This is a common theme in the fresh fruit world. The fruit often times may taste excellent, but if the aesthetics doesn't fit the grade, they will still be discounted on their price paid to the exporter. It's a difficult reality in the 'visual' world we find ourselves in. Over many decades consumers have demanded a beautiful appearance on fruit from their supermarkets, and in return the supermarkets demand this superficial quality from their distributors.

It has led to a situation where we are discounting or in many cases sending fruit to be processed instead of selling it fresh even though the quality is perfect!

Anyone who spends time at farms or with produce knows that much of the fruit that is harvested by growers isn't perfect, and lots of money is lost because of this visual demand. It's all part of the fruit game in the 21st century, and why it's so important to have great secondary markets of processors and domestic buyers. Often times the profits for growers are made in how much money isn't lost in their second grade fruit harvests.

Garrido Coffee

Panama Geisha Coffee, Part 1

by Keith Agoada

Having spent the last six years visiting with farmers in Latin America I have consistently been offered to buy bulk green conventional and organic coffee. Most of the time I simply respond that coffee is its own beast, and I stick to the fruits. But, given the coffee culture in Boquete, Panama I decided to take a deeper look.

One of my favorite agriculture tourism experiences in Panama was a visit to the world class coffee region of Boquete, Chiriquí, Panama.

Garrido Organic Coffee Beans
Garrido Organic Coffee Beans

While I appreciate quality coffee, my experience in coffee tends to be one of necessity. In the past I drank coffee because it was early in the morning and I needed help to wake up and start working, or I had a coffee meeting and I was drinking socially.

I could definitely taste and appreciate the difference between coffee brewed at Blue Bottle compared to Dunkin Donuts (sorry Dunkin Donuts). However, I never ventured into the world of pristine coffee experience. Having spent time in some of the nicest coffee shops in San Francisco, California I have seen the $10 coffees on the menu and often wondered who pays that much for coffee, and why! After visiting with Garrido Coffee in Boquete, Panama, I now understand the reason.

David Garrido, the owner and operator of Garrido Coffee was kind enough to give my dad and I a tour of his coffee farm and do a tasting of his coffee varieties.

The Geisha coffee has gained a reputation of being a smooth, yet deep flavored coffee with flower and fruit aromas and a range of taste nodes. The rumor in Panama is the most expensive bulk wholesale coffee ever purchased was Geisha from Panama at the coffee auction. Legend has it a buyer from Asia paid over $300 for just one pound of green coffee.

On my visit I first got a tour of the Geisha coffee farm located at exactly 1500 meters above sea level. The Geisha coffee is planted alongside the more common Caturra variety. The rich volcanic soil is filled with worms and other beneficial insects. The leaves and branches from the coffee plants quickly decompose and is converted into a naturally rich fertilizer. David explains that to get the perfect flavor he uses a bit of artificial fertilizer in order to provide the exact perfect deployment of nutrients. The plants are grown in partial shade, and surrounded by biological corridor of native forest and streams.

When it is harvest time the pickers know to only harvest the Geisha plants first in order to get a 100% pure Geisha harvest. However on the second and third harvests the Geisha plants are harvested with the Caturra beans and Geisha blends are created.

Part 2, Achieving a 96 Score
by Keith Agoada

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

 

Flores el Capiro

Visit to a World Class Cut Flower Grower in Antioquia, Colombia

by Keith Agoada

Colombia's export promotions department ProColombia sponsored me on a visit to Colombia to meet with a range of agricultural enterprises in different departments (or states in Colombia.)

On this trip I was fortunate to be connected with a leading flower grower in Colombia called Flores el Capiro.

Capiro was named the winner of the International Grower of the Year 2017 by the AIPH (International Association of Horticulture Producers) at the yearly event held this year in Germany. It is a prestigious award and is well deserved. The company is innovative, a pioneer, and maintains incredible quality, price and consistency.

Flores El Capiro Packing Facility
Flores El Capiro Packing Facility

Capiro grows an impressive 80 varieties of flowers commercially. The company packs and ships their own flowers from their facilities located about 45 minutes outside of Medellin near Rio Negro. The company is truly an innovator in the floriculture industry. They have a breeding program in which they are creating their own proprietary flower varieties.

They are especially known for the following varieties: Hydrangea, Button, Cushion, Fillers, Novelty, Spider, Cremon, Daisy, Santini and Tinted flowers.

Capiro has mastered international flower logistics. Over many years of trial and error they have figured out how to ship cut flowers by boat using climate controlled cooling technology. This allows them to ship more cost effectively around the world while maintaining an excellent quality and shelf life.

Visit to Simply Natural's Organic Persian Lime Farms

Invest in Organic Limes

by Keith Agoada

Two weeks ago I made my first visit to Simply Natural's organic lime plantation. The owners had told me of their plans to grow Organic Persian Limes which I thought was a great idea. Persian limes are in high demand in the USA, and on the organic side there always seems to be a shortage.

Having worked in lime sourcing from Mexico, I know that the Veracruz region of Mexico is a major global player, similar to how Michoacán is known for avocados. Every year during hurricane season there always seems to be a supply shock and a shortage occurs.

Furthermore, buyers like to have secondary options from countries of origin outside of Mexico. On the organic side, there is still poor organization among Mexican lime farmers, and there looks to be a major opportunity for organic lime exportation from Latin American countries outside of Mexico like Panama.

Simply Natural Farms
Simply Natural Farms

The first thing to note when investigating an organic lime operation is the genetics. Simply Natural refers to their variety as "Rainforest limes." Andrew Winstead, the director of their export marketing company Simply Natural Harvest, harvested some limes from one of their parent trees.

The Persian lime had a deep lime smell, and the flavor was explosive. I felt confident that these guys had chosen an excellent variety of lime, and that the conditions in Coclé, Panama in which their limes were being grown were ideal for export grade.

We then drove about 5-10 minutes from their main mango farm and nursery to their lime operation. Their first lime planting looked to be stabilized and growing well.

The initial investors for their organic Persian lime program are certainly in good hands. The plant nutrition program and integrated pest management systems were well organized and being properly implemented. When I visited, there was a team from Israel providing consulting on their irrigation systems and agricultural engineering. After a 10 minute chat with the Israeli's I was convinced that Simply Natural was working with some of the best engineers in the business.

Limes start to harvest in two years, more quickly than Simply Natural's mangos. I am looking forward to seeing these lime trees grow up and begin harvesting. Everything checks out from a marketing and agricultural perspective, and I wouldn't be surprised to see their Organic Persian Lime or "Rainforest Lime" operation scale up.

Woodstock Fruit Festival 2017

A Celebration of Fruit and Life in New York

by Raul Moreno

The Woodstock Fruit Festival is an event that takes place in the countryside of upstate New York. It is an event for fruit and health enthusiasts. There is food, music, workshops, sports and more activities to learn, meet new people and entertain yourself.

All of the food served is raw vegan, and is free of oil, salt, sugar and additives; 70% of it is organic. There were extremely delicious sauces everyday to go with the foods, and a wide selection of my favorite exotic fruits like durian, rambutans, mamey, dragonfruit and more.

Fresh Fruit Bowls at the Woodstock Fruit Festival
Fresh Fruit Bowls at the Woodstock Fruit Festival

I am from Panama and one of our favorite fruits is the papaya so it was surprising to find one of the best papayas I have ever tried here. It gives testamente to the advancements in logistics that can transport a highly perishable fresh fruit like papaya all the way to upstate New York in perfect condition.

All of this healthy food induced a natural bliss in which everyone was happy and enjoying the moment without any artificial stimulant, just a high vibrational food experience. At the event I was able to approach anyone and start an exciting conversation about fruits, farming, health or life in general.

It is really inspiring to see how many people are starting to join this amazing community of being a fruit enthusiast, working towards a healthy lifestyle supporting growth of the mind, body and soul.

While I am personally vegan, and the event was strictly raw vegan, the event was inclusive to everyone regardless of dietary decisions. Everyone was there to hang out without judgement and celebrate the abundance of fruits and vegetables that we are blessed with.

The attendees from the event were diverse. Most of the people were from the United States but I also met people from Australia, Scotland, England, Canada, Argentina and even another Panamanian guy who I met for the first time in my life at the event.

I definitely would recommend the fruit festival for anyone who appreciates fruits and vegetables, lives a vegan lifestyle, or just would like a new experience hanging out with amazing, open minded, and kind people coming together to celebrate life.

Durian Fruit at the Woodstock Fruit Festival
Durian Fruit at the Woodstock Fruit Festival

The Lemon

Plantain Ceviche
by Raul Moreno

This fruit is one of the most used in the world. We see it in drinks, salads, seafood, and desserts; every cuisine culture you can think of has something to do with this fruit. It has a sour taste which can be combined with sweet and salty food. In all cases the flavor of the food gets enhanced by this strongly flavored fruit. W

 

PMA Fresh Summit 2017

The Most Important Fresh Produce Expo in the US - October 19-21

by Keith Agoada

Next week is the highly anticipated PMA Fresh Summit. All the movers and shakers, influencers and industry players will be gathering in New Orleans to meet with existing clients and partners from around the world, and to form new partnerships. It's the who's who in the produce universe.

The event is rather expensive and thus, only those who are serious about produce make it to the event. Many countries invest in booths, with entrepreneurs and exporters from their countries gaining entrance to the expo.

PMA Expo Floor Plan 2017

Many of the major distributors, brands, importers, packing facilities, from North America, and globally will have booths and representatives walking the show.

Buyers from supermarkets, distributors, food service providers, and international importers will be at the show scouting out new supply relationships.

Mexico always has an impressive showing at the event, with the Avocados from Mexico being the impressive centerpiece to the strong Mexican industry. Small growers and packing houses have mini-booth setups within the Mexico section. For my interests it is the most important section that I walk through each year.

I'm also excited to visit the Peru, Chile, Costa Rica and Colombia booths to learn about which growers are represented at the show and what new products and projects are coming online.

Organic continues to be a major trend. Major brands and distributors that may have been late to the game with organic are now making a strong push forward in new organic programs.

Organic and conventional products that I will be looking at this PMA include: avocados, lemons, limes, mangos, pineapples, and exotic fruits.

Following the event I will be sharing some of my feedback and experiences from this years show.

Lingo of the International Fruit Trading Industry

Part 1
by Keith Agoada

Participating in the global trade of fruits and other products, we have had to learn some new language and terminology in order to play the game. Below is our first list of some of the words and phrases we come across in order to communicate properly with buyers, logistics providers, customs brokers, and exporters. Pleas

 

BBC World News: Global Avocado Shortages

Video Interview with Producers Market founder Keith Agoada

by Producers Market

The BBC World News interviewed Producers Market co-founder Keith Agoada regarding the current shortage of avocados.

Keith has been working with Michoacan Organics a grower owned Mexican avocado farm and commercializer of organic avocados for the last five years.

Check out the interview below.

BBC World News Global Avocado Shortages

What is a PLU code?

How is it used?

by Keith Agoada

Organic Grapefruit PLU Code
Organic Grapefruit PLU Code

A Price Look Up Code is a number often used in the North American and other retail industries. The code or 'number' is found on individual pieces of fresh produce (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, etc) and serves to make store check out and inventory control more efficient. It's a system that has been in place since 1990 and is now commonplace.

It's very important to note that putting a PLU code on the product isn't required by law. Therefore, it's possible that a product without a PLU code could still be genetically modified or conventional unless stated otherwise.

The PLU code will either be four or five digits long depending upon the product variables. It's worth noting that PLU number can also be useful for consumers as well, not just retailers.

  • If the PLU starts with a '9' it means that the product is certified organic.

  • If it starts with an '8' it means that the product is genetically modified.

  • If it has four digits and starts with a '6' the product is a fresh cut fruit or veggie.

  • If it has four digits and starts with a '4' then it can be assumed it is conventionally grown.

  • If the PLU has four digits and starts with a '3' the product has undergone an iodizing irradiation treatment.

PLU Code Chart

Lingo of the International Fruit Trading Industry

Part 1
by Keith Agoada

Participating in the global trade of fruits and other products, we have had to learn some new language and terminology in order to play the game. Below is our first list of some of the words and phrases we come across in order to communicate properly with buyers, logistics providers, customs brokers, and exporters. Pleas

 

The Art of Exporting Organic Papaya

Michoacan Organics is bringing Organic Papayas to the United States
by Keith Agoada

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 Unite

 
The Lemon
by Raul Moreno

This fruit is one of the most used in the world. We see it in drinks, salads, seafood, and desserts; every cuisine culture you can think of has something to do with this fruit. It has a sour taste which can be combined with sweet and salty food. In all cases the flavor of the food gets enhanced by this strongly flavored fruit. W

 

Visit to Organic Avocado Farm and Packing House in Michoacán, Mexico

Part 3: Maria's Organic Avocado Farm

by Keith Agoada

In many ways I regard Maria as the mother of organic avocado farming in Mexico, and deservedly so. She is the mother of 11 kids who all grow avocados, and now she has grandkids that are growing organic avocados.

She raised her family on a self sufficient family farm in rural Michoacán, Mexico. Everything was grown for family consumption, and any leftovers were bartered in town. Now her family has over 800 hectares of avocado production, and one of her sons owns a packing house.

Maria
Maria

Maria is located about 30 minutes outside of Uruapan and is managing her 7 hectare organic avocado farm. Leonel and I drove into her property just as Maria was finishing the foliar spraying of her biofertilizer fermented preparations. These preparations consists of plant materials from her farm, fermented overtime with molasses (to activate the microorganisms.) For a woman of 75 years I was impressed to see her work the machine.

As always Maria greeted us with a huge smile, and a big hug as she was happy to see her son Leonel. Right away we walked the avocado farm with Maria as she wanted Leonel's opinion on a young tree that was getting eaten by insects. Leonel gave her advice, which was to let the insects eat the tree, and to focus her energy on saving the trees around it. I'm not sure if Maria agreed with his strategy, but it was a cool moment to be a part of.

We then walked back to Maria's farm house where she gave us a tour of her organic vegetable garden. Leonel harvested some tomato and chayote. We took it back to her outdoor kitchen. Leonel cut the chayote, added fresh lime juice and sea salt. We then cut tomatoes and avocados, and made mini chayote sandwiches. Looking out at the view of the mountains in the distance, I felt blessed to be in Mexico.

On this trip I decided to purchase 10 bars of Maria's homemade organic avocado soap. She told me that many years ago she had a dream that one day she would be old and have nothing to do and would be bored. After waking from the dream she decided to take destiny into her own hands, and began pursuing her soap business. For three years she has created formulas, featuring her avocados, mamey and the herbs from her garden. Maria's skin is always glowing. She gives credit to her soap. Once she felt the formula was perfected she began gifting the soap to some family and friends. Now there is a following of people in Uruapan who only use Maria's soap to wash their face.

Part 1: Leonel and the Packing House
by Keith Agoada

In August I had the privilege of spending three days in Michoacán, Mexico visiting with Leonel Chavez, Owner and CEO of Michoacan Organics an export wholesaler dedicated to organic avocado supply chain and sales to the United States.

Leonel is a pioneer in organic avocados in Mexico with more than 20 years experience grow

 
Part 2: Breakfast at Rinconcito
by Keith Agoada

After completing our visit to the packing facility Leonel expressed his desire to have a proper breakfast before visiting his mom's farm. Apparently the tacos and orange juice didn't fulfill Leonel's appetite. I usually start my day with juice, some fruit, or perhaps a smoothie. So the big Mexican breakfast is a bit outs

 
Part 4: Leonel's Farm
by Keith Agoada

As a final stop on my visit to Michoacán, Leonel brought me to his farm. This was the first farm that Leonel converted from conventional practices and certified organic.

He explains to me that he was born an organic farmer. Growing up in rural Mexico with his Mom, Dad, and 10 brothers and sisters, there were no chemicals.

 

Visit to Organic Avocado Farm and Packing House in Michoacán, Mexico

Part 2: Breakfast at Rinconcito

by Keith Agoada

Map of Mexico showing Michoacán
Michoacán, Mexico

After completing our visit to the packing facility Leonel expressed his desire to have a proper breakfast before visiting his mom's farm. Apparently the tacos and orange juice didn't fulfill Leonel's appetite. I usually start my day with juice, some fruit, or perhaps a smoothie. So the big Mexican breakfast is a bit outside of my routine. However, I am always mentally, and sometimes physically prepared for my visits to Michoacán. I love Mexican food!

Being the wonderful host he is, Leonel asked me if I wanted to go to Rinconcito for breakfast, probably my favorite restaurant in all of Mexico. Rinconcito is a casual sit down family restaurant that is very well known in Uruapan. It is owned by an avocado grower, and they are known for their molcajete. Instead of bread and butter to start the meal, they provided us with fresh tortillas, avocado, and hot sauce.

For this trip to Mexico, for the first time I can remember I shaved my face and left a thick mustache. I figured I could get a laugh out of Leonel and his associates, and perhaps even gain some respect for a respectable mustache.

After downing some fresh carrot juice, and eating some sautéed local veggies with tortillas, pico de gallo salsa, and more avocado, Leonel's oldest son, Leonel, joined us at the restaurant. Leonel Jr is also an avocado farmer and manufacturer of organic fertilizers which he sells to his family's farms and other growers in the region. Leonel Jr showed up and talked business with his dad for a bit.

It's taken four years of working with Leonel to be able to understand well his dialect of Spanish. Some of my Colombian and Panamanian friends who know Leonel have trouble understanding his Spanish, so I definitely tap myself on the back for being a gringo who can communicate well with rural farmers from Michoacán!

Leonel Jr. surprised me with a special gift after the breakfast. He presented me with some "Miel de Aguacate" or "Avocado Honey." Basically, it's honey that has been collected from bee hives at the avocado farm, and has a unique flavor that has some avocado notes.

Part 1: Leonel and the Packing House
by Keith Agoada

In August I had the privilege of spending three days in Michoacán, Mexico visiting with Leonel Chavez, Owner and CEO of Michoacan Organics an export wholesaler dedicated to organic avocado supply chain and sales to the United States.

Leonel is a pioneer in organic avocados in Mexico with more than 20 years experience grow

 
Part 3: Maria's Organic Avocado Farm
by Keith Agoada

In many ways I regard Maria as the mother of organic avocado farming in Mexico, and deservedly so. She is the mother of 11 kids who all grow avocados, and now she has grandkids that are growing organic avocados.

She raised her family on a self sufficient family farm in rural Michoacán, Mexico. Everything was grown for fam

 
Part 4: Leonel's Farm
by Keith Agoada

As a final stop on my visit to Michoacán, Leonel brought me to his farm. This was the first farm that Leonel converted from conventional practices and certified organic.

He explains to me that he was born an organic farmer. Growing up in rural Mexico with his Mom, Dad, and 10 brothers and sisters, there were no chemicals.

 

Organic Agriculture Development in Nicaragua

CAC Trading

by Keith Agoada

Nicaragua is a small country in Central America. Most people in the United States know it either for geo-political reasons from the 1980s or perhaps its high quality coffee.

Nicaragua is rich in fresh water and natural resources. For a country of about six million people, there is an incredible amount of arable land ready to be put into productive agriculture. Furthermore, the country has an incredible road infrastructure.

I was fortunate to spend a few days in Nicaragua with a group called CAC Trading which is a leading entrepreneur in the development and commercialization of organic products grown by small farmers in Nicaragua. Ramses Ortega is their director, he served as my tour guide for my trip.

I learned from Ramses that Nicaragua is a bread basket for Central America. A lot of the beans, grains and roots grown in Nicaragua are sent to its neighboring countries, like El Salvador. The potential in Nicaragua for organic agriculture production and export is exponential. This has already being proven by Ramses and his team.

CAC Trading has the following vision:

"We strive to help small organic farmers in Nicaragua. We will work to improve their technical and financial know how, so we can be agents of change in our community, in a way we can improve the quality of life of our growers, and at the same time, build a sustainable business for our partners."

Organic Pineapples, Nicaragua
Organic Pineapples, Nicaragua

CAC Trading is already commercializing organic chia, sesame, red beans, black beans and coffee. These crops are all grown by small organic farmers. The seeds, beans and grains are purchased, packed and labeled by CAC Trading and then sold for wholesale export. By accessing foreign markets with organic products, the small farmers that work with CAC Trading receive up to 500% greater returns on their agriculture outputs.

CAC Trading is now diversifying into organic pineapple. My visit to Nicaragua was to visit their organic pineapple operation and to give them my perspective on the commercialization potential to markets in the United States.

While there is a long road ahead for Nicaragua to be an international pineapple player like its neighbor, Costa Rica, organic pineapple production is certainly feasible. In fact there may be some considerable advantages to growing pineapple in Nicaragua; First, the cost of labor is cheaper in Nicaragua than Costa Rica. Secondly, the cost of land is much less. Finally, given there is not much production of pineapple currently, there may be lowered risks of pests and disease spreading from farm to farm.

I will certainly be keeping an eye out for organic pineapple from Nicaraguan source and look forward to visiting again to Nicaragua.

Exporting with Coopeassa in Costa Rica: Pineapple Translucency Chart
by Keith Agoada

Coopeassa is a leading organic cooperative in Costa Rica It has been in the business of growing organic banana and organic coffee for almost ten years.

In 2016 the company expanded into organic pineapple production.

Since then, I have built a relationship with their executives and team supporting their mark

 

A Visit to L y L Proyectos

A Leading Organic IQF Pineapple Grower
by Keith Agoada

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 operat

 

Colombian Hass Avocado

Hass Avocados can be Imported from Colombia to the USA

by Keith Agoada

On August 13th, 2017, Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States of America announced that the U.S. will begin permitting Colombian avocados imports.

Here is the information from the USDA:

Colombian Avocados USDA Import Requirements
USDA Import Requirements for Colombian Avocados

Many Colombian growers, packers and exporters have come to the realization that the process of phytosanitary certification, will in many cases delay farms 12 months or more to get everything in order and approved. Nonetheless there is strong momentum, and the 2019 avocados congress is being hosted in Colombia.

Despite the obstacles Colombian entrepreneurs are enthusiastic to find solutions, and create a thriving export industry to North America.

Mission Produce's July 25th deal with Cartama further established Colombia as a serious player in Hass avocados in the future.

Colombian producers have successfully shipped Hass avocados to Europe but accessing a US market that is dominated by Mexico and California for much of the year, may be a more difficult task.

There seems to be a solid window in July to October when Mexico is down, but it is still to be determined how many containers of avocados will be exported from Colombia during this window.

There are diverse growing regions and a strong second flower. This ought to provide a larger range of harvest window, but the main seasons appears to be November to March.

Many are observing Colombia's avocado industry and are looking forward to seeing how this matures. There is an abundance of affordable agriculture real estate with Haas avocado growing conditions in Colombia. There is certainly a potential for further development and output.

Visit to Organic Avocado Farm and Packing House in Michoacán, Mexico

Part 1: Leonel and the Packing House
by Keith Agoada

In August I had the privilege of spending three days in Michoacán, Mexico visiting with Leonel Chavez, Owner and CEO of Michoacan Organics an export wholesaler dedicated to organic avocado supply chain and sales to the United States.

Leonel is a pioneer in organic avocados in Mexico with more than 20 years experience grow

 

Exporting with Coopeassa in Costa Rica

Pineapple Translucency Chart

by Keith Agoada

Costa Rica

Coopeassa is a leading organic cooperative in Costa Rica It has been in the business of growing organic banana and organic coffee for almost ten years.

In 2016 the company expanded into organic pineapple production.

Since then, I have built a relationship with their executives and team supporting their marketing and sales for the US market.

October 15th is approximately the date of the first harvest for organic pineapple export. As part of the preparation I was asked "what translucency does the buyer want?"

It's a great question, and one that is actually quite common in the pineapple world.

Pineapples from Costa Rica are often shipped for 14 or more days from harvest until the time it reaches its customers in the United States, Canada and Europe.

As such, buyers instruct their packing facilities to 'pick green' so that the quality can withstand the travel time.

Many buyers want a 0.5 to a 1 color which means it is just starting to sightly break the golden color. The idea is that it will maintain proper bric (sugar) content while maximizing the shelf life.

This is a great chart from Don Edwards at University of California, Davis that clearly explains the difference in pineapple color coding.

If you let the pineapple ripe naturally you can arrive at the deep gold color. This is the other extreme and is not advised by marketers. While this pineapple may taste great, it doesn't hold well and must be eaten rapidly.

Pineapple Translucency Chart
Pineapple Translucency Chart

Welcome to the Producers Market Blog

Introduction Part 1

by Keith Agoada

Hello everyone, my name is Keith Agoada. I am a co-founder of Producers Market. We've started this blog for our team to share experience and information as it relates to the supply chain of organic and healthy lifestyle.

My job is to manage relationships with farmers, packers, processors and buyers. We are working to develop direct value chain programs in the organic, non-gmo space.

Keith Agoada
Keith Agoada

About two to three times per month I get to travel to Latin America to visit their farms and facilities.

I continuously travel to cities and countrysides in Latin America, and communicate regularly with buyers of bulk organic materials.

Over the last three years I started to take photos with my iPhone which I share with friends and family on WhatsApp and Instagram.

I've launched this blog so that I can connect with a larger audience and also to put some more context to the images I capture. Many of the experiences I will be sharing have shaped my personal, professional and spiritual growth.

The photography is certainly amateur, and the writing as well. My creative teammates take more professional photos mostly of farms and food which I will be sharing here also.

I write these blog posts on airplanes, hotel rooms, at my office in Santa Rosa, California or wherever I can get a quiet moment to reflect on my experience.

Visit to Organic Avocado Farm and Packing House in Michoacán, Mexico

Part 1: Leonel and the Packing House

by Keith Agoada

In August I had the privilege of spending three days in Michoacán, Mexico visiting with Leonel Chavez, Owner and CEO of Michoacan Organics an export wholesaler dedicated to organic avocado supply chain and sales to the United States.

Leonel is a pioneer in organic avocados in Mexico with more than 20 years experience growing using organic practices. He has also now integrated biodynamic practices for the past six years. He has a unique farming method he calls "Farming for Life." Leonel's 10 brothers and sisters, and mom also grow avocados.

Leonel Chavez, CEO of Michocan Organics
Leonel Chavez, CEO of Michocan Organics

Leonel picked me up late in the evening at the Guadalajara airport, and as usual we stopped for some tacos en route to Uruapan, Mexico. After a few hours of sleep, and a few more hand made tacos and some fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast, we were ready for our first visit of this trip; to an avocado packing house.

The packing facility was located right outside of downtown Uruapan (the world capital of Haas Avocado.) We first sat down with the owner to learn about his company history, and their impressive growth over the last 10 years. They now pack for several leading distributors in the US, in addition to a top level retailer, and importers from countries in Europe and Asia.

Although capacity at the facility is limited for much of the year, the owner seemed to know Leonel well, and agreed to make space to pack avocados for the Michoacan Organics brand owned by Leonel, in order to fulfill our buying needs in the US. The packing house consisted of two identical buildings with identical machinery separated by a see through glass wall. Since it was the "low season" on our visit, only one of the buildings was in use.

It was interesting to follow the flow of the avocado movement in the facility from arrival to being fully packed and in the refrigerated area ready for transport. First, avocados arrive packed in reusable plastic crates and enter the facility in the receiving area. The avocados are moved from the quarantine receivables on dollies to a large machine that cleans, and automatically sorts the avocados. Workers manually unload the avocados unto the machine. First there is an automated brush that cleans the avocado, and then they move down the conveyor belt to a sophisticated computer that automatically sorts the avocados by weight and size.

For wholesale distribution in the United States Avocados are generally packed into 25 lb boxes of 32s, 36s, 40s, 48s, 60s, 70s, 84s. The numbers refer to the quantity of avocados in each box. Once weighed, the machined automatically shoots the avocados to a designated area where all the avocados of the same size class are organized. In these designated areas mostly female workers rapidly pack the avocados into the boxes, while simultaneously sorting out first class and second class avocados for each size.

Mexican Organic Avocados 20 Box
Mexican Organic Avocados 20 Box

Leonel explained to me the importance of using stronger, more expensive boxes. If you use a cheaper box that isn't sturdy the boxes at the bottom of the pallet can start to break and it can damage the avocados. "Buyers can ask for discounts when this happens."

Following the thorough tour from the packing house owner and sales manager, we sat down once again in the owner's office to talk some more business.

As is common in Michoacán about half of the actual conversation is business, the other half is talking about their families, travel plans, and trends within the avocado market. On very little sleep I drank a black tea, however, Leonel who I am convinced isn't human doesn't drink any form of caffeine, even on a few hours of sleep.

After concluding our business meeting and tour of the packing house, it was time to drive out to our first farm visit with Leonel's mom, Maria.

Part 2: Breakfast at Rinconcito
by Keith Agoada

After completing our visit to the packing facility Leonel expressed his desire to have a proper breakfast before visiting his mom's farm. Apparently the tacos and orange juice didn't fulfill Leonel's appetite. I usually start my day with juice, some fruit, or perhaps a smoothie. So the big Mexican breakfast is a bit outs

 
Part 3: Maria's Organic Avocado Farm
by Keith Agoada

In many ways I regard Maria as the mother of organic avocado farming in Mexico, and deservedly so. She is the mother of 11 kids who all grow avocados, and now she has grandkids that are growing organic avocados.

She raised her family on a self sufficient family farm in rural Michoacán, Mexico. Everything was grown for fam

 
Part 4: Leonel's Farm
by Keith Agoada

As a final stop on my visit to Michoacán, Leonel brought me to his farm. This was the first farm that Leonel converted from conventional practices and certified organic.

He explains to me that he was born an organic farmer. Growing up in rural Mexico with his Mom, Dad, and 10 brothers and sisters, there were no chemicals.