Category Archives: Toby’s Travels

Pristine Peru: Growing demand for organics creates new opportunities for farmers

South America

South America

Peru, a small country on the northwest coast of South America, is known by many as the home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Maccu Picchu, or the birthplace of America’s beloved vegetable, the potato.  If you’re a foodie, you’re probably aware of the soaring popularity Peruvian cuisine is having on restaurant menus around the U.S.  However, what we find most exciting about Peru is the pristine countryside where farmers have been growing organically for generations.

Click on the image to read more about Peru's organic agriculture in this white paper.

Click on the image to read more about Peru’s organic agriculture in this white paper.

While Peru has no shortage of organic farmers, many of them struggle with the infrastructure needed to sell their crop for its true value.  This is where High Quality Organics comes in.  We’ve been able to help our Peruvian farmers not only gain market access to the U.S. but we’ve assisted with critical success factors like access to organic certification or certified organic seed. Our partnerships with our Peruvian farmers have truly gone beyond simple transactions and become transformational, allowing them to grow their business and better support their communities while increasing our supply capabilities.  It’s an exciting time for Peru’s organic agriculture sector and we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it. Below are a few highlights from a recent trip our Vice President of Supply Chain, Toby Eck, took in June.

A blossoming organic chia seed field in Peru. Chia seed is an ancient seed growing in popularity for its heart-healthy omega-3 is used in baking, granola bars, smoothies and more.

A blossoming organic chia seed field in Peru. Chia seed is an ancient seed growing in popularity for its heart-healthy omega-3 is used in baking, granola bars, smoothies and more.

Here an organic farmer we've been working with is digging up a ginger sample in a sandy field. He is successfully growing many different crops using above-ground nutrition-irrigation system.  This has transformed a completely agriculturally-useless region into vast fields of sustainably produced organic products.

Here an organic farmer we’ve been working with is digging up a ginger sample in a sandy field. He is successfully growing many different crops using above-ground nutrition-irrigation system. This has transformed a completely agriculturally-useless region into vast fields of sustainably produced organic products.

This picture shows just-picked paprika air-drying alongside a field. Not needing to transport or machine dry the paprika provides significant savings for the farmer.

This picture shows just-picked paprika air-drying alongside a field. Not needing to transport or machine-dry the paprika provides significant savings for the farmer.

This is one of HQO's partners of three years, Santiago.  He's a first generation farmer that developed a passion for organic agriculture while in college.  He has not only brought an abundance of agriculture to an otherwise barren area, but he is providing employment to several people in a very poor region of Peru. He grows jalapeño, paprika and more for HQO.

This is one of HQO’s partners of three years, Santiago. He’s a first generation farmer that developed a passion for organic agriculture while in college. He has not only brought an abundance of agriculture to an otherwise barren area, but he is providing employment to several people in a very poor region of Peru. He grows jalapeño, paprika and more for HQO.

Here's a great example of the innovative spirit of so many of our partners.  This is a sand field that can produce high-quality organic agriculture by the above-ground irrigation and nutrient distribution system.  This type of production agriculture is critical for food insecure places like the barren lands in remote Peru or Egypt.

Here’s a great example of the innovative spirit of our HQO partners. This is a sand field that can produce high-quality organic agriculture thanks to the above-ground irrigation and nutrient distribution system. This type of production agriculture is critical for food insecure places like the barren lands in remote Peru or Egypt.

To learn more about High Quality Organics and the organic ingredients we supply  from Peru and the other 30+ countries we work with, please contact us on our website, www.HQOrganics.com.

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Visiting China: The World’s Largest Food-Producing Country

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Earlier this month, I traveled throughout the dynamic country of China to increase our supplies of certified organic vegetables, botanicals and Fair Trade teas. China is a unique country:  one rich in ancient history with a diverse landscape – from … Continue reading

Toby’s Travels: Growing Fair Trade Supplies in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a fascinating place.  The island sits just to the east of India, in the Indian Ocean, and has one of the oldest recorded histories.  Despite its small size and secluded location, Sri Lanka is home to a land rich in biodiversity — including a plethora of organic spices and teas.

Sri Lanka Map

Map of Sri Lanka from http://www.gundam.wikia.com.

I traveled Sri Lanka last fall to work with our partners on growing the current supply of Fair Trade ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. I also was there to meet with some small farmers that grow clove, black pepper, several essential oils and green tea.

 

 

Cinnamon Tree

Cinnamon Tree in Sri Lanka

Cinnamon, the bark of the laurel tree, is actually native to Sri Lanka and often grows in plantations.  While the tree can grow over 200 feet high, most trees are maintained like bushes for ease of harvest.  We’re going to be posting a detailed post about cinnamon later this fall so stay tuned.

Cinnamon Plantation in Sri Lanka

Cinnamon Plantation in Sri Lanka

Because the farmers’ fields were in very remote parts of the country and my time there was short, I wasn’t able to make it out to the growing sites of all the crops.  However, I did a thorough visit of all the production facilities as part of our HQO quality assurance process. Each year I audit our growers’ production facilities to ensure we’re all working together to adhere to the highest quality and safety standards.

Sri Lanka Fair Trade Culture Center

Sri Lanka Fair Trade Culture Center

Sri Lanka Culture Center Event

Sri Lanka Culture Center Event

Another exciting part of my visit was securing more Fair Trade certified product.  One of our big initiatives at HQO is growing our Fair Trade program.  We recognize consumers not only want a healthy and safe product but they want a product that was grown with great consideration for the environment and the farmer.  This is were the Fair Trade program answers the call.  From holding monthly medical and optical clinics to building a cultural center on their plantation site, our partners in Sri Lanka have done an amazing job in providing much-needed healthcare and farmer education to those in the most remote parts of Sri Lanka. The funds from the Fair Trade program have also helped build homes for the farm families and purchase school supplies for their children. Everyone in the community benefits.

Fair Trade Certified Logo

Fair Trade Certified Logo

It was really neat to see some of the amazing things the Fair Trade program provides for families in need.  My visit reinforced the call we all should have to look for the Fair Trade logo when we’re purchasing tea, chocolate and other food products.

You can learn more about the Fair Trade program by visiting www.FairTradeUSA.org or contacting us directly at http://www.HQOrganics.com.

Next stop, India!

 

Toby’s Travels: Cardamom

I had the privilege to meet some of our growers in South and Central America a few months ago. One of my stops was at a cardamom farm. Take a look at some of the highlights from my trip.

My trip started in South America where my driver took me high up into the mountains. I saw some breath-taking views.

As I traveled over the mountain pass and down into the valley, I saw several terrace farms, a unique agricultural practice that dates back to the Incas. Terrace agriculture is used on mountainsides to help conserve water and prevent soil erosion.

I was welcomed with these gorgeous views as I traveled down into the valley.

In South America, I visited some ginger farmers.  Learn about that visit in my ginger post on May 3, 2012.

My travels out to the cardamom farm started in this remote village in Central America.

After what seemed like forever, I finally arrived at the cardamom farm. Here’s a picture of one of several cardamom plants I saw that day. Cardamom is a
member of the ginger family and native to India.

Cardamom grows best in the shade and therefore thrives in the rainforests of the tropics.

Cardamom plants grow in rows on plantations and their stems can reach anywhere from six to 16 feet in length.

The cardamom pods are actually found near the base of the plant and have to be picked by hand, making cardamom one of the most expensive spices only second to saffron.

While most of our customers purchase cardamom seed, HQO only buys organic cardamom pods directly from the grower. We wait until the product arrives at our headquarters in Reno, NV before we remove the seeds from the pod. This ensures our customers receive the freshest, most flavorful product available. So, once the cardamom is picked by hand in Central America, it’s carefully bagged using this machine and shipped directly to us.

I hope you enjoyed this little photo tour of my cardamom farm visit.  Stay tuned for the next post on my travels to Sri Lanka.

 

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Toby’s Travels: Organic Ginger Farming in South America

This gallery contains 19 photos.