Carlos Viveros

Planeta Verde

Hi, I'm Carlos Viveros and I grow organic avocados in Mexico. I'm the spokesman of a group of 28 growers in the luscious green area of Michoacan. The name of our association is Planeta Verde, which means "green planet". Apart from avocados we also grow organic coconuts, grapefruits and mangoes.

We work closely together with Rewi and Susana Illsley of Pampastore Mexico, who are helping us with export and handling. They have helped us a great deal to get our organic certification together and reach the European consumer. We have had a few difficult years so we're very happy we can move ahead now, together with Nature & More!

Our farms are located in Michoacán, on the west coast of Mexico, near the city of Uruapan. This region is perfect for growing avocadoes, due to the fertile volcanic soil, the excellent climate and the altitude. People call this region the "world capital of the avocado". We grow our avocados on an altitude of 1200 to 2600 meters.  Avocados are fruits that can remain hanging on the tree and does not have to be picked right away; they only start softening and ripening after they are picked. Together with the variation in micro-climates, this means we can produce avocado's nearly all year round!

Only a small percentage of the growers in this region of Mexico is organic, but we are definitely setting an example. Many conventional farmers are starting to see the advantages for their health and environment and are taking over some of our methods. In the near future we hope to grow to a cooperation of 90 organic farms.


Interview with Rewi and Susana Illsley

Rewi and Susana Illsley are a brother and sister of American descent, but 100% Mexican. They have been in the organic movement in Mexico since 1992. They have a family farm and also work with Pampastore Mexico, which assists small local growers in the export of organic fruit to Europe.

What are the benefits of organic farming to the local communities in Michoacan?
"Organic  methods have very direct health benefits for the local communities. Because of the huge number of growers who work with pesticides, there is very high contamination of the air and surface water. This is causing an abnormally high rate of cancers and head tumors in the area. So it's very clear to the growers why organic is the way to go."

How is the organic movement in Mexico developing?
"It's really growing in recent years. In the past, farmers have had it very easy in Michoacan. The avocado market was a demand market, so the growers were in a comfortable position. The smaller growers however get lower prices and have woken up  to the idea of going organic. The young people have access to computers and are increasingly aware of what goes on in the world. So they are really catching on. Since two years, our country has a federal law for organic growing, so we have our own rules and regulations now. A lot of organic production from the USA is now being moved into Mexico. We ourselves are in a big organic network, giving courses and trying to push organic ahead."

Mexico has a remarkable and ancient corn tradition, but we heard it is threatened by imported GMO's. Can you comment on that?  
"Yes, there is a lot of fighting going on about GMO's. Monsanto is really pushing to bring GMO-corn into the country and there is cross-contamination going on. As organic growers, we don't want anything to do with it and luckily it does not affect avocado cultivation. Corn is very important for the country though. The government has allowed testing of GMO corn in the north of the country, but a the same time it also has programs to save seeds and protect this cultural heritage. The indigenous people are also saving seeds. We really hope that we can stop the GMO influx and save our traditional corn biodiversity."

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