Wisdom from Sonia Carlo
From the Slow Food Boricua web site:
I apologize for such a long e-mail. The list of concerns and problem are endless on the island.. However, I have so much faith that families can live a better life, eat better and live together without any grief. As a farmer I see ( high valued) food going to waste ( example coconuts, mango's etc) everyday. I have already explained my thoughts and goals. I 'am a new member of slow food, so I dare to ask of help or ideas to reach these goals. Any ideas would be of great help, I also a volunteer and memeber in a small "organic" market in Rincon and I wish to motivate the farmers towards sustainable agriculture.
Our farm is located at the southwest region of PR. relatively dry area ( perfect for growing leafy crops) , I had been managing the farm for about 5 years. However, because of the recession and lost of employment we ( my husband, my child and I) have dedicated ourselves to live from the land these past 3 years. It has been tough, other than the harsh weather, there exist a lack of knowledge of organic and sustainable agriculture. Our practices have been trial and error and we still manage to survive and compete with bigger companies. This made us realize that the only way organic farming is going to flourish in Puerto Rico is through coop operation with other farmer, dedication and sustainability. We have accomplished being the first certified organic farm in P.R. for now , our next step it to be completely sustainable.
Our future plans is to educated farmers to work together for a better future and to not depend on external outputs. Lot of family farms are struggling in P. R., because of the lack of knowledge, inputs and competitiveness with other farmers. In the past 8 years there have been only a handful of "organic farmers" and only one market on the island, now there are over 150 "organic" farmers, 3 "organic" CSA , 5 Markets and 3 major chains of supermarkets that are willing to buy local and organic. This clearly shows the interest in organic produce, however not one of these farmers are certified organic and lack basic marketing knowledge, even with the high demand on the island these farmers would need to be organized to fulfill these needs, being careful not to misuse our natural resources.
Our goal is to demonstrate to these farmers that you can live off the land, we plan to be the first completely sustainable farm on island and maybe even the Caribbean. I know our plans my seem ambitious, however it is extremely important that the our little learn the value of local fresh food. It shames me to say that our Island imports 80% of its food ( most vegetables and fruit are not even in conditions to be eaten and the pricing are to high even for a working class family). I feel deeply for the elderly and young mothers that struggle with the poor quality of food that there is available. Our Island can produce so much much more quality and quantity that whatever is offered in the supermarket.