Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 3: Touring a produce market, visiting the U.S. Embassy, Chilean rural development

Tomatoes at Lo Valledor Produce Market
What a fun, busy day we’ve had!  We started our morning with a visit to the produce market of Lo Valledor in the Santiago metropolis.  German Faundez and Enrique spoke to us briefly of the history of the market, which was started in 1968 by a group of community members.  The market is a major part of Santiago’s economy, as growers come from all around the area, some as far as 3-4 hours away.  There is no meat sold at the market, just produce (which include nuts).  Vendors pay an entrance fee and then may park their vehicle or set up their stand anywhere in the grounds.  They then pay a value-added tax of 19% at some point.  All produce is inspected by their government entity that is equivalent to our USDA.  An interesting fact we learned is that 15% of produce in Santiago is sold through supermarkets, otherwise it’s all sold through this market or some sort of street vendors.  
Ears of corn for sale
 After our initial talk, we walked around the market to look at all the different fruits and veggies.  We sampled avocados, pears, and grapes.  Everything was delicious!  We couldn’t get over how big some of the items were-ears of corn, onions, cucumbers, peppers—it was very cool!
Garlic at the produce market
 Our next stop brought us to the U.S. Embassy, where we heard from Rachel Bickford, Agricultural Attache, and Agricultural Specialists, Luis and Nelson.  Rachel started her presentation with a video made to promote Chilean agriculture, which you can view here if interested:
Here are some quick statistics from Rachel’s presentation:
One out of every four Chileans works in the ag industry.
Chile produces 7,000-11,000 tons of honey each year.  Bees are vital to their fruit production.
Chile’s pork industry has had an annual average growth rate of about 8.3% for the last decade.
U.S. imports from Chile increased 1.4 billion dollars over the last decade-a 96% increase.  Our biggest imports from them is fruit: blueberries, strawberries, grapes, etc.
U.S. exports to Chile have also increased over the past decade.  Those items include wheat (#1), feeds, and poultry.
We learned a lot about our relationship with Chile when it comes to agriculture.

On our way to the coast, we stopped in Casablanca, which as of last year, is the “Wine Capitol of the World”.  It’s quite the cute little town-no stoplight, people wave and smile at each other, and everyone was friendly.  It felt a little more like home (except that we needed an interpreter, of course!).  Alfonso, the town’s Director of Rural Economic Development, gave us a brief history of the town and showed us a video filmed in town to promote tourists.  It was interesting to hear that some of their biggest struggles to keep agriculture alive in their community are also some that we face back in South Dakota.  They struggle to get the “young generation” to stay on the wineries and farms to take it over and keep the family tradition going.  It’s more appealing to go into a bigger city to make twice as much money in half the amount of time.  He commented that the younger generation lives differently and many family traditions have been lost and they don’t seem to understand or appreciated where their food comes from. 

We arrived in Vina del Mar about 6:45pm (our time) and had some great, fresh seafood along the coast. 

Cayla Christiansen,