<p>In November 2014 I was lucky enough to be invited by Discovery Organics to visit Peru and Ecuador to check in on our farming co-ops of bananas and mangoes. It was a tremendous experience and gave me an inside perspective of what farm culture is like in South America, and a greater understanding of how the Fair Trade program works for these small producers. Today I'm going to focus on <strong>Apromalpi</strong>, a co-op of 160 farmers that Discovery Organics has fostered a direct relationship with over the years. Based in Piura, a desert region in Northwestern Peru, the growing conditions are ripe for mangoes, and other fruits such as passion fruit and limes. Our first stop on the journey was to the Apromalpi headquarters where we met with farmers from another co-op, <strong>Agrovida</strong>, who have used the infrastructure provided by Apromalpi to bring their mangoes to the export market for the past few years. This year they are striking it out on their own and working with Discovery directly, shipping mangoes every month from January through March/April. It was very interesting discussing logistics of the export world, and how shipping such fragile products really works. [caption id="attachment_5030" align="aligncenter" width="300"]<a href="http://blog.theorganicbox.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/IMG_6630_2.jpg"><img alt="Meeting with the Agrovida farmers." height="197" src="/media/original_images/IMG_6630_2-300x197.jpg" width="300"/></a> Meeting with the Agrovida farmers.[/caption] Next we drove to visit one of the farms in the Apromalpi co-op. <em>There are 160 farmers in this co-op, and the average farm size is around 2 hectares, with around 100 trees/hectare.</em> The primary mango grown is the Kent: a large, juicy, and delicious tropical fruit. The farm we visited was helmed by <strong>Artemio</strong>, a man in his late 70's who has been farming for nearly all his life. It was fascinating walking through the mango trees and seeing all the fruit hanging, waiting to be harvested. These co-ops work through partnership, so many neighbouring friends and family members that are also a part of the co-op will help each other out when needed. A few of Artemios workers were there to help show us around, and it was very interesting to learn how mangoes are cut, then drained via their stem, before being shipped to a packing warehouse for grading and packaging. [caption id="attachment_5031" align="aligncenter" width="300"]<a href="http://blog.theorganicbox.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/IMG_6675_21.jpg"><img alt="Artemio" height="200" src="/media/original_images/IMG_6675_21-300x200.jpg" width="300"/></a> Artemio and his Kent mangoes.[/caption] The <strong>Fair Trade</strong> certification process is such a huge benefit for so many of these farmers. They work together to pool their resources so that they can reach a broader market, and with the help of distributors like Discovery Organics we are very lucky to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour. The <em>social premiums</em> that are a part of the Fair Trade programs provide much needed support within the communities of these growers. Specifically for Apromalpi and Agrovida, they have been used to help fund their organic certification costs, and invest in maintaining and improving their soil health so they can produce higher yields, as well as higher quality fruit. <a href="http://blog.theorganicbox.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/IMG_7962.jpg"><img alt="IMG_7962" height="225" src="/media/original_images/IMG_7962-300x225.jpg" width="300"/></a> Talking with the farmers first hand was a very humbling experience. Getting to know their fears, concerns, and hardships... and working towards building a positive future for them and their community was incredible. Seeing their hard work pay off, and receiving mangoes from the very people I went to visit in November has been a life changing experience. The world isn't as big as we think it is, and our buying choices have very real impact on the local communities we choose to support. I'm very happy and proud to be sourcing mangoes (and bananas) from such amazing people in South America, and I hope you are too. Next time you're choosing the contents of your box, add a few extra Kent mangoes. They come from good, local, real people... and we are <em><strong>Growing Better Together</strong></em>.</p>