This afternoon I visited Hiromi Makiyama farm which is about 50-60km out of the center of Sao Paulo. The infastructure in this area is good -roads, electric, buses....
Please take a moment to look at this farm. It is as impressive in real life as it looks! I know my posting will not do their operation the kudos it deserves.
This is a family business started 40 years ago but that has grown and is growing. They grow a variety of produce - dicon, greens, brocolli, cauliflower, radish, carrots. They have started some hydroponic growing. The coverings have helped them deal with heavy rains. In addition to being growers, they wash and package the vegetables and then ship to the supermarkets they supply. The are committed to traceability and sustainable practice. They work with the their market - Grupo Pao de Acucar - in implementing a traceability program, training, and best management practices. They are investing in new cold storage, trucks for shipping, processing and technology and new land acquisition. They purchase some of their vegetables from other producers but will not buy from producers who do not meet their quality standards.
They employee 150 people in the local community in their facility which runs 24/7. They provide their employees with training and skills, provide transportation and health assitance. They sell appoximately $500,000US/ month.
We also spoke with Helio Nishimura who is a consultant from Grupo Pao de Acucar (grocery chain with approx. 14% market share and $21 billion real) www.paodeacucar.com.br
Helio shared with us about the importance of quality and tracking to Pao de Acucar. They have implemented a manadatory tracking system to all their producers. Before they implemented the program, they had 1400 suppliers. However, not all met their standards and they now buy from only 650 producers. Those producers with the highest quality numbers can sell a larger percent of their produce to them.
With their system, a consumer can look at their package of lettuce, carrots or whatever, take a number off the package and go on the internet to see where their food came from, a picture of the grower, a understanding of the growing practice and recipes for the product. Helio showed me some of their advertisements...which looked vageuly familiar to the Ocean Spray Heritage campaign. http://www.oceanspray.com/ Their gold is in providing food safety which is becoming more of an awareness, improve customer satisfaction, brand recognition and provides health benefits. We enjoyed sharing stories of what our cranberry cooperative is doing around food safety, sustainability and the importance of the investment and support of the growers. Helio invited me to visit their Green Store in Sao Paulo. I look forward to seeing their Green vision in action!
After visiting with the Hiromi family, I feel a bit homesick for my own family but it was a joy to see a family working together and growing their investment in agriculture. Looking at the Ocean Spray site tonight my family's picture came up which made me feel a bit closer to home!