February marked the first time High Quality Organics visited Morocco. From the vast changes in scenery – harsh dessert to lush plains – to the diverse cultural experiences – almost ancient-like villages to modern-day cities – the visit to Morocco gave us great insight on unique organic partnerships this country has to offer.
Morocco is a country on the northwest coast of Africa. It’s agriculture industry employs approximately 40% of the population and accounts for 15% of GDP. Most of their and trade is with Europe but they receive a good amount of agriculture imports from the U.S. Because of Morocco’s fairly temperate climate, the country is able to produce a wide variety of agriculture products from wheat and barley to olives and oranges.
We sought out Morocco because of the new relationships we’ve been fostering with some innovative organic farmers. We wanted to meet them in person and learn more about their family and farm. Below are some highlights from the trip. We hope you enjoy!
Wild Herb Collection
The first part of our trip was dedicated to driving five hours east of Casablanca, to the Atlas Mountains where over 50,000 acres of wild rosemary grows at 3,200 feet.
The area is owned by the government and closely monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure it remains a sustainable and economic resource for the local villages.
The land is divided into parcels and local families bid to collect rosemary on the plot for three years. The plots are then divided into three sections and collection can only occur on one section per year.
Each permit holder is not only expected to harvest the rosemary sustainably (leaving at least five centimeters of the plant and only collecting 15kg of product per week) but also maintain a portion of the road that gives access to the wild rosemary crop.
The rosemary is collected by hand from May through September daily. At the end of the week, the family uses donkeys to transport the material to a collection center where they are paid.
Approximately 50% of the local families’ income comes from the collection of seasonal herbs and the remaining comes from raising animals such as sheep and goats.
Organic Farming in Morocco
The second part of our trip was dedicated to meeting with a farmer, Santis, who grows a wide variety of products on 40 acres of cultivated fields leased by the Moroccan government for 40 years. Santis is a second-generation farmer with a great passion for sustainability and innovation.
Our first stop was to his onion fields where he showed us a very practical way he stores onions. Instead of using up precious warehouse space, the farmers in Morocco build these onion caves: essentially a man-made ditch using rock walls and a straw roof and then covered in plastic. We were skeptical at first but after closer inspection, they clearly keep the onion in excellent condition.
Then it was on to the hot pepper and peppermint fields and greenhouses where you can see some of the bitter orange plants they grow.
Throughout our visit we witness the considerable investment Santis has made into an underground irrigation system. It always amazes us to see the sophistication and genius our growers put into their operation. With our focus on long-term contracting, they’re able to dedicate resources into significant capital investments that end up providing more consistent, high quality product for our customers. It’s a partnership we’re proud to be part of.