Chihuahua Apple Farmers
The goal of this program was to enable apple producers in Chihuahua state to earn a fair return for a high quality apple product and thus to live in dignity and reduce the need to migrate.
Since 1987, the Frente Democràtico Campesino(FDC) has been working to develop agriculture, rural communities, and fair policies in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Small apple producers have historically had no access to credit, cool-chain storage or transport. Desperate for income at the end of a long growing season, producers accept rock-bottom prices from intermediaries for apples that are still on the tree. The result has been continued poverty and migration; as many as 70% of producer families have felt it necessary for one or more members to migrate to the U.S.
In 2005, Broetje Orchards and Vista Hermosa Foundation entered into a partnership with the FDC to improve conditions for apple farmers. Initiatives included market research and business plans, product improvement and certification, cooperative marketing, and infrastructural development.
The result has been a near threefold increase in farmer incomes and access to new markets. Key benchmarks in our relationship with this apple-growing community have included:
- Preliminary study of markets in Mexico; and development of sound business plans for small family farmers to identify current level of product quality and supply chain capability and the requirements necessary to compete in premium and Fair Trade markets.
- Establishment of a pledge loan fund which pays a pilot group of 20 farmers at harvest to avoid intermediaries, enables them to contract cold storage facilities to collectively store and market their apples, and more than triples the net income to farmers the first year. All loans were repaid.
| Old System || 2006 Planned Project Results || |
| Intermediary Price-Sept. || % Mex. Min. Wage || Harvest Loan || Interest Cost || Total Cost || Market |
| Earning || Avg. per Producer || % Mex. Min Wage |
- January site visit from FDC to Broetje Orchards to receive hands-on demonstrations of pruning and thinning techniques in the field and other concepts related to product improvement. Upon their return to Chihuahua, FDC leaders convince a pilot group to commit to product upgrades over a minimum two-year period.
- Expansion of pilot to 104 farmers. Formation of apple growers’ association and an “Escuela Manzanera” or Apple Growers’ School, with a methodology of farmer-to-farmer education to help farmers learn techniques and processes of producing quality fruit for the higher niches in the market.
- July site visit from Broetje family and staff to see Chihuahua farmers in their fields, develop a relationship with the community, and exchange ideas on such technical issues as disease, irrigation, thinning, and hail protection. Gilberto Molinar and his son Isidro host a meeting on their farm in Namiquipa. All four of Isidro’s siblings were forced to migrate to the US for work several years ago; the hope is to improve the farm enough to bring them home.
- February site visit from Broetje Orchards staff to provide hands-on training in pruning techniques. Broetje staff member, Jose Ramos, developed a local reputation as “the butcher” as he demonstrated important pruning techniques on farmers’ trees.
- Expansion of project to 160 farmers. Development of demonstration trees and orchard blocks by two members of FDC delegation used as test models.
- Establishment of tree nursery and worm composting project to improve affordability of repopulation costs, access to new varieties, and organic production techniques.
- Outreach to Tarahumara villages through food security and indigenous land rights initiatives. Due to extreme poverty, the Tarahumara migrate from their homes and work as day laborers for area farmers. Building on their organizing strengths, the FDC works with communities on a wide range of conservation agriculture projects and begins defense of a class action lawsuit to protect their land.
- Access to organic markets in the US. Sunny Valley Organics in Nogales, Arizona, and the Organic Consulting Firm (OCFO) assist with necessary phyto-sanitary and organic technical improvements and certifications. Catholic Relief Services creates solidarity groups and educates U.S. consumers about the realities faced by poor farmers in Mexico while stimulating purchase of these coop’s products through Sunny Valley Organics and its retail client outlets.
- July exchange – a second group of farmers from Chihuahua visit Broetje Orchards to tour cold storage and packing facilities.
- August Site visit to Chihuahua by directors of Broetje Orchards and Vista Hermosa Foundation. Includes a visit to the village of Camacho – once a community of 306 residents, they have lost half of their population to outmigration. Homes were abandoned and the local school closed in 2002. Since this project started, at least five families have returned and life is returning to the community.
- Further investment in Tarahumara communities – improved housing and continued defense of land rights.
- Construction of cold storage facility in Basuchil, Guerrero. Contracting cold-storage services has run as high as 45% of the sales prices of the apples. By building their own facilities, farmers will save money and gain the capacity to sort, pack and distribute the apples themselves.