Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 8; Sotomayor fruit farm tour, Monsanto Seed Corn production tour

Monday  February 17, 2014
After a great start of the day at the Quinamavida resort, we boarded the bus to a very interesting tour of a large diverse farm own by Juan Carlos Sotomayor.  Juan Carlos purchased this farm which had been farmed very traditionally with crops and livestock .   Juan Carlos’ vision transformed this farm into a diverse farm focusing now on mostly fruit production including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, plums, apples and kiwi and vineyards.  His farm now includes nearly 10,000 acres.  He has four sons with three of them farming with him with their own areas of expertise.  Each son has attended undergraduate school in Chile, but then pursued advanced degrees in other countries with most of them acquiring engineering degrees.

Juan Carlos has pursued necessary requirements for the sale of organically produced blueberries.  Juan Carlos admitted that at the beginning,  these blueberries only produced about ½ of conventionally produced blueberries , but after five years he has experienced good production and profitability.  Juan Carlos has decreased his kiwi production and may eliminate it completely as the cooler climate in his area has resulted in the poorest year ever.  His kiwi fields normally will yield 340 Ton/hectare, but this year they may only produce 10 Ton/hectare.  The cold climate this year has affected much of his fruit production which the largest damage occurring early in the season as the crops are flowering and budding.
Kiwi's at Juan Carlos Sotomayor's fruit farm
Carlos’ farming operation has evolved with changing markets.
Juan Carlos’ large farm size prevents him from buying any insurance for his crops and does not allow him to receive any government subsidies.  While the cool weather has been devastating for Juan Carlos’ production, it has however created a high demand and price for the products allowing satisfactory profitability.
Juan Carlos, tourguide Fred and Class VII touring the fruit farm.

The highlight for our tour at his farm today was our experience of watching a blueberry picker in action in the field.  We were able to walk right next to the machine as it shook the berries from the plants and conveyed them to the top of the picker where the driver and packaging people operated.  This machine was manufactured in Oregon and was shipped to Chile at a delivered cost of about $175,000 and was predicted to be in use for the next 15 years. 
Blueberries, ready to pick and eat
Berrie harvester
 In the afternoon we ventured to a large irrigated field of seed corn production managed by Monsanto.  In about 10 days, these fields will begin to be harvested and will be processed likely at the Monsanto plant in Paine, Chile, that we toured earlier in the week.  Here the plant will husk, dry, shell, and prepared for shipping to the US where it will receive its final grading preparing it for retail sales.  We were especially fortunate to have our own chief agronomist, Joe Schefers, give a great explanation of what was happening in the seed fields.  Joe’s impromptu presentation gave a history of seed corn production to the advancements of what we experience today.  While Chile has not approved the sale of GMO for use in its country, most of the seed production fields were planted with those products to be used in countries that approve its use.
Seed Corn for US Market
Corn grower Francisco & staff, Angela with Monsanto

Submitted by Randall Questad