I had the good fortune to grow up next to the Valley of the Heart’s Delight. Although the region no longer hosts endless miles of orchards — it’s now Silicon Valley — between the beginning of the 20th century and the early 1970s, Santa Clara Valley was the most beautiful and productive place on earth for cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. Summers were warm and dry but ocean breezes kept the evenings cool and fresh, and the winters had enough chill for the trees to produce abundant, flavorful fruit from May into mid-September. Every holiday season flat, round baskets laden with dried fruits and nuts, were shipped all over the United States, most especially to families living in the snowy Midwest and Eastern United States. Luscious, sweet, dried fruits to enjoy in the dead of winter.
As a serious food enthusiast, along with my dedication to equitable opportunities for farmers, one of my favorite activities is visiting farms. No matter if they flourish in a temperate or tropical climate, I always learn from the farmers as well as from the plants, birds, insects and animals who call the farms their home. I indulged this passion during my recent trip to Costa Rica where I toured farms in the mountainous San Carlos district, a rain forest region in Alajuela province, famous for fine Arabica coffee, sugar cane, pineapples and cattle production. Vanilla is now grown on a few farms in this district, usually in tandem with other crops, including commercial production of trees for use in home building. From there I continued down to a vanilla and spice farm in the lowland Central Pacific coastal region in Quepos district, Puntarenas province.
In 2013 I was contacted by the National University of Costa Rica to speak at a round-table conference on vanilla in 2016. I was both honored and excited by the prospects of returning to Costa Rica after 52 years (which sounds impossible, but it’s true).
Written by Sarah Osterhoudt of From the Field Trading
When my husband and I first walked through the forest vanilla gardens in the community of Imorona, Madagascar, where we spent two-and-a-half years as Peace Corps Environment Volunteers, we were amazed by the diversity of the landscape. We observed vanilla vines growing interspersed with fruit trees, clove trees, timber trees, food crops, medicinal herbs, palm trees and coffee plants. A day working with farmers in their fields inevitably included taking breaks to enjoy some bananas, to share a jackfruit together or to drink coconut water for a burst of energy. We soon learned to appreciate all the skill and hard work families put into their fields to keep them both productive and beautiful.
In the summer of 2007 I met Chris Barden of Worldwide Farmers Exchange (WFE), a program operating out of Berkeley California. We were attending an event at Santa Clara University. Over lunch together, I learned that Chris was interested in finding women farmers to participate in their exchange program. I was interested in WFE as many of the farmers I have met via my site want very much to gain new skills sets to assist them in their countries of origin. I’m sharing information about the Worldwide Farmers Exchange as one possible option for those of you interested in learning new agricultural work that could benefit you and your country as well as to encourage those readers who have farms to
When Lulu Sturdy inherited her uncle’s run-down Ugandan estate, she found herself alone on a failing farm in a war zone. Seven years on, she has built it into a Fairtrade phenomenon.
Courtesy of Lulu Sturdy
Two violent incidents brought me to where I am today. The first was the unexpected death of my uncle, the day after I arrived in Uganda to see him; the second, the attempted murder of my Ugandan farm manager, three years later. The first I came to see as serendipity, the second as rocket fuel.
Serendipity landed me, aged 30, on unruly Ndali farm, with its tourist lodge, in Western Uganda while its manager and visionary – my uncle, Mark Price – was being buried in Yorkshire. It was originally an emergency measure. I was expecting to be back within a couple of months making furniture near Chipping Norton – doughnuts, strong coffee, ear-defenders and biscuit jointer (my favourite “bodge-it” tool for avoiding a mortice and tenon) by day, a pint of Hook Norton and steak and kidney pie by night. Instead, these faded into the distance along with eight nephews and nieces, a five-year-long relationship, a red Ford Escort (an inheritance from my grandmother and which passed away during my first year away during a joyride around an Oxfordshire industrial estate), and heaps of books on Tibetan Buddhism.
Seven years on, I am still in Uganda, smitten with a rare gift: the liberating feeling from top to toe that I am in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, no matter what the complications.
Female Coffee Growers Find New Freedoms in Peru
By Sadie Hoagland – WeNews correspondent
NUEVO YORK, Peru (WOMENSENEWS)–Her hands move methodically down the branch, raking the red coffee cherries into the basket around her neck. She moves to the next branch, demonstrating the work of harvesting coffee. Watching her dexterity and strength, one would never guess that Rosa Cantalina Sanchez is 66 years old.
Glades Valencia, 14, is doing the same thing, running her hands down the branches as if she were braiding hair.
Sanchez and Valencia represent a life’s work of coffee growing in northern Peru. Even though many of the region’s farmers have attained “Fair Trade and Organic” certification in order to grow higher premium beans, the most a coffee-farming family can hope to make is $1,200 a year, and only $400 in poorer areas.
The average annual per-capita income for this region is about $1,300, according to the Organic Products Trading Company, an import company based in Vancouver, Wash., that works with the growers. That level of poverty describes about 68,600 families in northern Peru who together produce 49 percent of Peru’s coffee–about 273.2 million pounds–almost all of it grown for export.