Author, Photo : Jowrney, Stacey
What is WWOOF?
WWOOF(World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a world-wide movement linking volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchanges helping to build a sustainable global community.
(2015.03.02 - 2015.03.17)
Location : Coñaripe, 600 km south of Santiago
On New Year’s Day, we received a glad email from WWOOF Chile. It was the host list that we were waiting. There are about 200 hosts in Chile and it means that at least hobby farmer may be excluded. As limited to the agricultural region south of Santiago, in a day we found one attractive farm highly desired to experience.
Martini Brother’s Organic Blueberries
attraction 1. The time now is a harvesting season, besides Blueberry is one of our interest crops.
attraction 2. 30 hectares is good enough to wwoofing as semi-enterprise farm.
attraction 3. Most of the workers are Mapuche of Patagonia. A nice chance to hear their traditional life.
attraction 4. Without using any machine, let’s check it out how it is possible.
attraction 5. No long hair, no ear-ring things. Yes, we must be welcomed!
What is more, the host replied O.K. to come whenever we want.
Patricio Martini of farm host, we met him at the lakeshore of Villarrica town where located in between Púcon and Coñaripe, farming site. His english was much better than our poor Spanish but his 12 years-old daughter, Katherina, helped us translation.
“Daughter, you know I invested a lot for your english. This might be a good chance to pay back to dad ! ”
Thanks to her english, we could talk much with the host while an hour to the farm village. He said that we are the first wwoofer that he has been long for receiving. There are many workers working in his farm but why he wants volunteers?
“Farm families have no opportunity to meet foreigner. Even domestic travel is not easy for most of them. Therefore, wwoof is a good solution. If someone come here to work together and exchange their culture, how wonderful ?! I had a several contact but no show. Your are the first one”
He really welcomed our visit from his deep heart.
Before going to the farm, he brought us to his house. While working as lumberman long time ago, he collected high-quality wood to build his house in the future. His dream came true! Kathernina looked little bit uncomfortable like saying as ‘repeating again’. Dad doesn’t care about it. His voice was a little big, the reason is that lost his hearing due to the noisy of lumbering long ago. And he added that the wooden house like his one lasts long enough a hundred year but the modern construction does not such long.
Coñaripe, we arrived to the house of Roberto, his brother. Roberto guided us to a cabin where we will stay. The well equipped cabin is for a vacation of all the brothers family. The time was already late evening and we went to bed early after serving dinner with using dried kimchi to the Patricio and Katherina.
At mid night. The sound of knocking windows caused us to wake up. It was Roberto and he said that we have to evacuate immediately. Volcanic eruption? This is a real situation. Oh my gee…between the trees we saw the pillar of fire on the top of the mountain far away. It was just last day when we relaxed near the volcano, it was hard to believe. At the same time of siren sound all the resident of the small town followed the evacuation way. The long line of refuges stopped at the top of the hill near lake. It’s just 10 kilometers from the volcano and we could see the red-yellow lava flowing down the volcano. Although natural disaster, the view from there was magnificent. Most of people look relaxed and calm, contrast to us who carried a camera only.
As morning came, the lava stopped flowing and the situation was over without sacrifice in 7 hours. It was a unique experience though. That day was off and we came to work next day. Pedaling in cold air, the volcano Villarrica over our back has less snow after eruption.
Looked around the 30 hectares farm. It was surrounded small mountains and Villarrica was shown as well over there. Apart from two big lakes, one small river stream passes in the midst of the field. Overall feeling is very comfort and refreshing. Located based on Feng-Shui theory, indeed it must be one of the highest condition and is ideal for living as well. We don’t know the theory well but just feel ‘just good’.
Blueberries moist with morning dew look healthy. Workers were busy to pick the berries from early morning. Farm is divided into around 20 sections. The information sign standing in every field was useful to understand the planting history. We found someplace beehives where good fertilizers live in. The big sunflower garden was for raising useful insect, while, many herbs were grown to protect the blueberry from harmful insect. There is a secret to prevent insect pests and disease - natural manure fermented by chili pepper. It was true that the black liquid in fermentation tank was full of chili. Next to the tank, chili pepper sacks pilled up high in the storage. We need more study about its recipe and effect.
Enough warming-up in the Oceania, it’s time to start real work
2 hours take for a walk around the farm. Chile has many rains in winter while very dry in summer. But, the fall season is gentle warm and cooling down fast in the shade. Our first work is picking the berries. It makes us remind Dabin’s mother who is cultivating flower in Ushuaia of Argentina.(That story will be posted soon) She said that picking is the easiest work so nothing needs to teach. That’s right but just sweating and boring under the sun. We had an idea of less boring as it was to study Spanish listening the mp3 and practice with the working ladies next to us. Under supervisor of Jackie, green plastic tray were filled with violet berries. The branches are heavily loaded with fruit. Sugar powdered surface is more like black shinning under sun and the fruit is pretty harder than our thought. If lucky, we can eat the thumb sized big one which is so sweet.
For 3 hours before noon time, we, two people, picked the blueberry 10 trays(=about 20 kg). This is half of other advanced worker. Jackie writes down on a note the result in detail per person as paid by kilo. Miguel, working buddy of Jackie came in a mini truck to load the tray. As a rule, no machine as a rule but exceptionally used as means of transport. This is the only moment of fuel smell and machine sound in the field.
3 days later, workers are busy to make the blueberry carton at the workshop from the morning. It’s packing time! The remaining harvest will be done by part-timer or children. Let’s go to work of commercialization! As workers take their position one by one, the packing line is running.
Fresh blueberry refrigerated goes in the sorting line one tray by another. We didn’t expect that there are so many things to be picked out; worm bitten, spider web on calyx, crushed or damaged, blue colored one and etc. Have to move the hands and eyes very fast. Even at those hectic work, the ladies sitting on the line keep talking funny stories.
Passing through the packing line, the fruit changed to perfect ‘goods' in a container. The yellow sticker and the carton box makes the goods looking nicer. One day the little boy Pato, the younger son of host Patricio, joined to packing with us. He comes to work here as a volunteer once a week. Only 8-years old but he enjoyed the work and competes himself as much and fast as he can.
The finished goods are exported the whole quantity to USA. Of course by airplane. As organic certified, it is sold at high price which is good for the host. Strange but cannot be distributed within Chile, let’s hear the inside story from him.
“Most of the organic farmer uses very low level of copper powder for fungus control throughout the world. However, Chile government has a strict restriction on ‘copper’ as the reason of the largest producer of it. Impossible to get the organic certification in this country. That is why I had to register it in Germany. Domestic farmers keep asking to change the raw and got the answer from this government, but no body knows how long takes as they are very very slow.”
Export can expect high benefit, in other side, fruit loses freshness due to longer period of transport and distribution. In fact, Chilean consumers cannot meet the good product of Martini Blueberry in supermarket, so sad.
Lumbering, no future
Only 10 years ago, blueberry is not popular in Chile. Same in Korea, beverage manufacturer looking for something new flavor and then, in 2005, introduced blueberry juice in the market. The new taste achieved a big hit and the blueberry growers has been much increased for the past years. Blueberry originated in the north america and many production in the eastern Europe. Several reasons of nutritional profile,always a nice marketing source, as well as its plain taste, people love it in spite of high price. Here in Chile, it called as “Arandanos” in Spanish but many people still have never heard about it. In addition, organic!
“If I ask a passerby about organic blueberry, I guess the answer ‘Organic? What is it?”
This talk with Partiricio is meaningful. Using pesticide or chemical fertilizer is very limited to a large farm owners in the South America. The average situation of typical farmer is too poor to buy them that it means natural growing and pure cultivation. At the present time of difficult classification of organic matter like ‘echo-friendly, chemical free, organic’ and complicated procedure and too many standards to get the certification as well as expenses, all of us need to consider about the right direction.
"By the way, Partricio, how you could start blueberry at that time?”
“You remember that I was a lumberman long ago. All my 4 brothers were not educated well and nothing to do except of cutting down the tree, my family business. Good income and it was not that I dislike the work. But, I don’t want my children to follow the same way of life. The world has chanced.”
A movie like story starts mixing Spanish and english. The brothers thought watching the bald mountain becoming bigger. No future. Have to stop lumbering and now plant something! And so what? Not a proper solution. And then one day, something happens to one of them, a destiny.
“As usual, I was working in the foot of the Andes and two travelers came to me one day. The work site is just next to the famous hiking course in the border line of Chile-Argentina. The two American speaks Spanish pretty well and we talked a lot and drunk beer moving to near hotel. They work in the US is farming blueberry in organic way. What is blueberry? And organic? That was totally new to me, an ignorant lumberman”
Instinctively, he thought it is “chance” of his life and later was invited by them to the blueberry farm in Washington, as a wwoofer during 2 months. His poor english was improved day by day and finally graduated the basic course about organic blueberry cultivation. Returned to home he persuaded his brothers to buy young trees and land. The region around Coñaripe is belong to Mapuche territory, the sales is prohibited by law. Good thing is that he was enable to rent it at low cost for long term period. We wish that Korea would have such one. The brothers had been expanding the land little by little and finally to 30 hectares.
“Pouring huge investment for 7 years since begun the cultivation. That is why all the brothers could not stop working in the forest although very tired in the farm. It was just last year to bring us some profits. Adding little more I bought a small apartment in Santiago, for our children come to study in near future."
Really moved by his talk. The good-will of farming is connected to the next generation. Besides, 8-years old successor, his son Pato, always happy with farm work. We had to think deeply about our aim of existence for future generation.
Together with Mapuche, indigenous inhabitant of Patagonia
Happy weekend! Wwoofing encourages 4 to 6 hours a day depends on farm situation. But in this time we did full time as really enjoyed blueberry things and the time with Mapuche, even a few times of overtime work so we were longing for the weekend.
On the following Sunday, Martini brothers invited us to the birthday party of their mother. Inspire of nothing confidence, we joined carrying violins. Regretful of short practice, we had to play ’Spring of hometown(a popular aria of Korea)” instead of happy birthday song.
All the family applauded us but we were shamed. We have several mission during our travel, cycling, wwoofing, violin but it is hard to give up any one so mostly violin often puts behind priority. In the party we kept in our mind to master, at least, the birthday song soonest. To mother of good brothers, we prayed happiness and longevity within the lovely family.
Farm has about 20 full-time workers. All are pure Mapuche how is indigenous habitants of Patagonia region except 3 who are mix with European. They speak not only Spanish also mother language ‘Mapudungun’ and every morning welcome us saying ‘Mari mari(=Good morning)’. One day we asked them to teach some words. We don’t know what is wrong but they laughed at saying ‘Peñi(=Mr or Sir) of us and it might sound funny to them. Because of historical background nowadays the language was almost forgotten by young generation. However it is worthy of close attention that some local school starts to teach it adopting as a regular class.
It’s interesting that we could have many talk with them although our very poor Spanish. All are thanks to It was thanks to very understanding people. For example, verb conjugation, we had no idea how to change it per person so always speak the simple form. Some of them helps us kindly replied us in both, infinitive and proper form of conjugation together. What so good sense! Though the whole period of our travel in the south america, we have never been served like that. And unforgettable time with the family of Sandra and Rosa.
Saturday afternoon. While being about to depart to Sandra, we stopped by Patricio in the garden.
“You should eat up all the lots of meal. Because leaving food means that you will attack them. If afraid, don’t forget to bring a doggy bag, haha~”
Sandra’s house is across the street from blueberry farm. As entered into the living room, she were preparing some meal and even beef stake although at the afternoon tea time called there as “once”. It reminds us the talk of Patricio. We came to have early dinner. Fresh fried doughnut ‘sopailla’, it was so good with sugar and what’s better with mate tea. It was so interesting to share the tea altogether with the same straw and cup beautiful shape of metal cup, seems to be very traditional. It was true that we get to begin feel little afraid of eating much and just that time Sandra suggested to go out for walking to lake.
Her father welcomed us in his kind eyes which are seemed to understand the ways of the worlds. We practiced to him “Mari mari Peñi”. He told us about the Mapuche life. Very limited understanding but the story is like this ; living by respecting all living creatures followed the law of nature, Patagonia land is that they just rent from the mother nature, all are connected in deep mind.
Mapuche, the spiritual owner of Patagonia, defended the land against Spanish invasion. It was not expected a traditional dress or house but wanted to see they are living in nature. Simply over. The eye of them seem to ask us “We have not changed and are still the same. What about you?”
Sunday afternoon. Melisa picked us up with her husband and son. Just 3 kilometers away to Rosa house but the road in the middle of hill is so complicated. As the result, it was good that we gave up cycling there advised by farm colleagues. Rosa in flower patterned blouse looked so happy to our visit. The food was normal enough and we got to know that Patricio told a joke. A few glass of red wine and white wine, Rosa drunken on telling her story.
“Can you imagine me as a carrier woman lived in Santiago. City life was not bad having 4 children. But, year by year I became more missing my home town here. At last I decided to move here with my youngest son. How do you like here, isn’t it good? My son, why don’t you show your horse to the guests?"
Angel, shy boy of her, carries a piece of worn-out towel and shakes his hand to follow him. In the vast plain of mountain, there is a handsome horse among grazing animals and his name is Cabacho. Angel spreading the towel on his horse and rides on it. Nothing busy, we walked slowly with Cabacho. “Yes, here is so good” We felt as Rosa said under the mild sunshine of autumn. Horse tail reminds us violin bow and said to Angel when we end the short violin play.
“Angel, this violin bow is made from horse hair”
He suddenly came to his room and back something in his hand. Well braided hair of Cabacho must be a valuable treasure, but he warm smiled to say "Here is for you”. While we feel difficult, not knowing how to do, Rosa adds more burden of hand over fresh eggs and homemade wild raspberry jam prepared by herself in previous spring. Strange combination of sorry and thanks . As sun goes over the mountain we came down the hill followed a guide of Rosa. It was her shortcut going to work, stream runs beside the road and the everything around us was peaceful. Long time before coming back to hometown. Rosa is as happy as can be.
A special gift
At the last night. Martini brothers prepared barbeque party for us. Very much enjoyed the food and drunk beer said “Salud(=Cheers)!”. We worked even harder and this place has something special energy to make us do so. Influence of Feng-Shui? Not sure.
After dinner, Patricio gave us a small wooden box as a gift. In the box there are sets of small earring and cinnamon leaves considered as a holy medicine between the Mapuche.
“The leaf is very precious that I gained with difficulty from the chief of Mapuche. Stacey, don’t forget to carry this with you. It will bring you a baby.”
He added that it was owing to the leaf to have his youngest son and just smiled. Nothing to say except thank you. Let’s remind the purpose of our journey. Someday we hope to tell Martini brothers another story “Planting tree” of Jowrney and Stacey.
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