Thursday, June 3, 2010

Today: part one

We had a day full of meetings. I thought it would be easiest to break it into three parts. We started the morning with a tour of several farms about 60km NorthWest of the part of Montevideo where we are. We met with a some farmers and their family and workers. These particular growers grow under Fresh Berries of Uruguay . They are a very entrepreneurial and spirited group. They belong to the same CREA with FUCREA (an orgnaization I will explain in today: part two). They are innovators in starting blueberry production with knowing very little about it. The first plantings we visited were about 6 years old. They were a combination of Blue Crisp, Misty and ONeil. They are looking at other varietals which they are getting from a nursery in Argentina. The first farm belonged to Luis. He calls his farm Blueberry Fields Forever (in honor of the John Lennon song as he excitedly explained. They have had two very different growing seasons that last two years...first with heavy rains and then a drought. But the are hopeful to produce 10,000-12,000 kilo per hectacre (1 hectacre=2.47 acres). Currently, they are producing 7,000 kilo/hectacre with about 5,000 kilos that is useable for export.

Blueberries are a new fruit to Uruguay and the general population does not comsume them. Also, Uruguayans do not purchase much in the way of frozen fruits. The blueberries grown here are exported to Europe. They are not exporting to the US as the US requires the blueberries be "gased" for flies and they do not have a shipping partner who is certified to do this. The biggest challenge other than their learning curve appears to be fungus with the need for additional drainage in a very thick clay based soil. They do not have pest on the blueberries. Luis's family was very welcoming and his sister kindly brought us call coffee and cookies while we toured the field.

We then went on to visit Mariano's farm. Mariano works for Sony but is a passionate grower....of, well, everything....blueberries, apples, peaches, pears, oranges, mandarines (their form of mandarines), lemons, bosenberries ....He tries to grow everything and sees what works. He is trying many experiments with the blueberries on his farm. If it does not work, he will pull them out! He and Luis along with Julio (who is an egronomist) have built a small cold storage facility and screening room for blueberries on Mariano's farm. They are anxious to learn best growing practices and ideas.

Mariano generously shared mandarines right off his trees which were the best we had every tasted and two large bags of apples - Pink Ladies and Crisps! Delicious! He has a country home on the farm that over looks 500 hectacres of preservation land that he compared to the Everglades but with salt water (see photos). I think we would have spent the day with them if we had not had to make our next meeting :)

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