Pineapple

Minga - Working Together for Great Pineapples

Dried Pineapple
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In the Cauca region of Colombia, four women travel together from one pineapple farm to another. Elfa Nelly, Nolba, Leda, and Yolima do a Minga every day. 

What's a Minga?

A Minga is the idea that when many people work together, everyone benefits. In this case, it's a traditional process where a group of people agree to rotate between each others' farms to work as necessary. In this case, these women have essentially formed an unstoppable group of pineapple farmers!

Many of the 42 members of the Pineapple Association we work with participate in a Minga. Together, they cultivate pineapple and sell it to Fruandes, the Fair Trade Organisation we partner in Colombia. In return, they receive the best price for their pineapple and the whole community benefits. Win-win! 

Pineapple growing on a farm in Cauca, Colombia.

Pineapple growing on a farm in Cauca, Colombia.

Elfa Nelly, Nolba, Leda, and Yolima

Elfa Nelly, Nolba, Leda, and Yolima

New Fruit!

Introducing ... our new fruit lineup! 5 organic dried fruit options, now including banana and dragonfruit!

Launching today are the bright, new, beautiful packages. So what's new?

  • They're all organic. Certified organic golden berry, mango, pineapple, banana, dragon fruit and cacao from Colombia.
  • Two new fruits: banana and dragon fruit on their own for the first time ever! 
  • New farmer faces. Each fruit features a unique farmer face of a member of that growers' association. 
  • Convenient snack size. They're a little bit smaller, to allow you to grab and go with them. The perfect hiking/camping/airplane snack! 

Plus, all of your favourite things have stayed the same:

  • No added sugars, preservatives, or sulphites. Just delicious fruit.
  • Fair Trade fruits grown by small-scale farmers in Colombia.
Level Ground dried fruit packages
Level Ground pineapple package
Level Ground banana package

Pineapple - Regrowing Peace through Pineapples

In the Cauca region of Colombia, the Balanta family has worked for years advocating simultaneously for peace and for pineapples. 

It's a region that was known for conflict; it's main crop, coca leaves. Because of the coca production, guerrillas occupied the area, soon followed by the military. This combination led to heavy violence in the area.

Cesar (Nilsen Lucumi), Susanna, and Gustavo (Amaifi Bonilla) Balanta grow pineapple from their farm in Cauca. Even though they have formal education, and hold other jobs in Law and Human Resources, they never left Agriculture. This family has deliberately chosen to stay in Cauca, through conflict and war. They advocate for pineapple production, a welcomed alternative to coca, and are passionate members of the pineapple farmers' association - Asoagronorca (Agriculture Association of Northern Cauca). 

Now, this region cultivates peace. What was previously an area known for drug production and violence is now a community who comes together to produce pineapple and work together. 

Cesar Balanta in one of the Pineapple farms in Cauca.

Cesar Balanta in one of the Pineapple farms in Cauca.

The finished product. Our pineapple package features the face of Susanna Balanta.

The finished product. Our pineapple package features the face of Susanna Balanta.

Fruandes Organic Farmers Meeting

Fruandes, our dried fruit and cane sugar partner in Colombia, shared the following with us.


This summer, Fruandes held the sixth organic farmers meeting in Ipiales, Nariño (Colombia). The On this occasion, Fruandes visited and shared some time with each of the members of the Biofruit Napoli association, a group of organic golden berries producers led by Albeiro Chamorro.

The focus of the meeting was 'The Farm as a Set of Good Practices'. Participants exchanged farming practices, in order to co-create and improve processes. 

The agenda had four stages:

1. Good Practices 

The 2-day meeting began with the participation of all association members. Each member shared their best practices and strategies in terms of quality and sourcing.

Together they identified the following good practices:

  1. Loyalty and organizational commitment

  2. Persistence and good project management

  3. Good organizational management

  4. Strategic leadership

  5. Inclusive governance

  6. Good logistics and traceability through effective communications

 

2. The Chagra Route

A Chagra is an Indigenous farming system. It's not only a collective activity wherein farmers and indigenous people produce their own food, but also a learning place where traditional beliefs are connected with organic production and divinity.

We visited the Chagra in the afternoon. The aim of this activity was to observe, and analyze how we can replicate these kinds of farms. Fruandes encourages farmers to grow healthy, nourishing foods for their own households. 

 

3. Visit to the organic golden berry farms

The Fruandes community visited the farms of several Biofruit association members to know more about growing organic golden berries. First, we visited Hernando Chamorro’s farm, where we had a tour of his fields and learned about his composting practices. Next, we went to visit Albeiro Chamorro’s farm, and toured around the farm as he explained the golden berry picking process. Later, we visited Gildardo Rosero´s farm. He is in charge of raising the seedlings of the golden berries for all farmers belonging to the association. Lastly, we visited the farms of Jaime, Enrique and Leonardo López in the José María Hernández village, located in Pupiales. There we learned about other products made from golden berries.

 

4. Gathering and cultural exchanges 

At the community center in the village of José María Hernández, we participated in the last activity of the meeting, much anticipated by participants. We described the organizational structure of Fruandes with two main objectives: 1) To know the roles of each on the Fruandes team; and 2) To replicate this model within each association to improve their organizational structure.

To be faithful and loyal are the keys of success.
— Albeiro Chamorro, Biofruit Napoli Association
Fruandes is a knowledge center!
— Orlando Rodriguez, Banana Farmer
Germán Betancourt, Organic Development Leader (far left) with organic pineapple farmers from the Cauca region.

Germán Betancourt, Organic Development Leader (far left) with organic pineapple farmers from the Cauca region.

Fabio Baron, Fruandes Logistics and Service Leader (left), on the farm of Hernan Chamorro, the pioneer of the organic golden berry production in Nariño.

Fabio Baron, Fruandes Logistics and Service Leader (left), on the farm of Hernan Chamorro, the pioneer of the organic golden berry production in Nariño.

A traditional dance from Nariño on the last day of the meeting.

A traditional dance from Nariño on the last day of the meeting.

The Faces of Fruandes.

Workers at Fruandes cut, sort and dry the mangoes.

Fruandes was founded in a time when Colombia was experiencing serious upheaval with many internal refugees moving to large cities in hopes for safety from armed conflict in the rural areas.  Embedded in the heart of Fruandes was a commitment to employ women who had been displaced by violence in their rural homes and had come to Bogotá to start a new life.  

Fruandes now employs 45 women and has carried on in its strength in providing community for the families of their employees.  

Fruandes is now looking ahead and building a new facility in Ibague.  This will mean moving the whole operation hours away from the city of Bogota.  In their usual style, the leaders of Fruandes put together a multi-day trip for the whole company to go by bus and explore the new town.  Finding housing, checking out schools and sports teams for their children, envisioning a new life in a new place together.  The collective sense is that the new town will provide an incredible lift in quality of life - less time commuting, more affordable housing and more time with family.

Meet Tatiana.

Tatiana's mother worked at Fruandes during Tatiana's growing up years.  In 2008 Tatiana became the 2nd generation in her family to join Fruandes.   She started in production and now works in the office as the administrative assistant.

Tatiana and Hugo in 2013, when Tatiana was expecting with her first baby.

Tatiana and Hugo in 2013, when Tatiana was expecting with her first baby.

MEET Luz.

The story of Luz is the story for many Colombians. She is an internal refugee who fled from her native costal town of Tumaco to the capital city of Bogotá. Luz is a single mother to six grown children, only the two youngest live with her. She must begin her day at 4am because her commute time to Fruandes is nearly two hours! Meaningful work, however, is worth it for Luz. She is thankful to have a stable job, and to work in a place where people truly care for each other. 


MEET DON ISRAEL.

(note - his first name is Israel, not Don. Don is a term of respect, similar to saying "Mr." in Spanish).

Don Israel grows organic mangoes in Vereda Guacaná, Colombia. He started farming in 2005. With his raised awareness of environmental care and sustainability issues, he converted to fully organic practices within three years! 

On his eight hectares of land, he employs two farming families year round, plus eight additional families during mango harvest.

He sells his harvest to Fruandes, Level Ground’s trading partner, and receives a fair price for his crops.