Monday, May 16, 2011

Blueberries from afar

I've always felt very strange buying produce from half way around the world. New Zealand apples, peruvian asparagus, chilean blueberries.
On this trip we have seen the massive asparagus fields in the deserts of Peru. We have seen the controversial Quinoa in Bolivia (where because of foreign demand, Bolivians can no longer afford to eat this incredible grain). And now we have stayed on an organic blueberry farm in Southern Chile.

Jorge, Cristina and their son Felipe own a 800 acre farm in the fertile lands just east of Villaricca. It is a rainy area with a similar climate to Seattle and perfect for growing things like strawberries and blueberries.
Jorge and Martina used to raise cattle and sheep on their land as well as manage pine and eucalyptus trees and then 10 years ago they decided it would be cool to finish raising their three kids in Gig Harbor (40 miles south of Seattle). Jorge got a student visa for the family and they relocated. Of course, Jorge preferred going to the race track rather than school so Cristina had to get a job as a high school math teacher in order for them to keep their visa.

About 2 years ago, Felipe, their now 26 year old son decided he wanted to return to Chile and start working their land. He planted blueberries and raspberries because they can bear fruit relatively quickly and there is a good foreign market for the organic version. He also planted hazelnuts but those take a while.

[custom charcoal maker] The parents moved back to Chile this year by driving their car down and they all live together on this beautiful piece of property. They are hard workers and Felipe is learning a lot about running a farm. It is cool to see his inventions for organic farming and to learn of his plans for the land.

Blueberries by Felipe
So next time you see organic blueberries from Chile, know that we may know the family that farms them and they are doing cool stuff with their land. You can feel good about that. Whether you want to buy something that had to be shipped half way around the world is up to you. Depends how badly you are craving blueberries in February.
The farm house

Jorge helping me to put Megan's bike back together


  1. Weird about Quinoa in Bolivia. It's one of the few things that grows well in the altiplano and they can't grow enough to meet local demand as well? I doubt that very much. Eventually the supply will meet the demand and the prices will go down, but until then we'll just have to tolerate the poor farmers getting a decent price for their crop. Unthinkable. Lets hope the gringos don't find out about Tarwi.

    By the way, you guys have made me want to get to know Chile better.

  2. The AP released a story in early January about how the US demand for Quinoa, although good for Bolivian farmer's pocketbooks is bad for the supply. Here is a link to the NPR story, but many other networks also carried the story.
    However, I agree that the farmers deserve a good price for their crop, but I fear that the money mostly goes to the land owners and the middlemen. Either way, it is a great food. We also learned that it is apparently good for cleaning. When we went to the market to buy a bag of quinoa they asked us if it was for eating or for cleaning.
    Thanks for following the blog and for your comment.


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