My name is Francisco. My wife Marisol and I are organic farmers from Chile, where we grow walnuts and keep sheep. Married 39 years ago, we have been organic farmers ever since. In 1992 we helped establish Tierra Viva AG, Chile’s first Organic Family Farmer’s Organization. We obtained recognition as a third-party certifier from the Chilean Agricultural Authorities in line with national organic standards.
Our farm is a model of agro-ecological sustainability in an urban neighborhood. We grow organic walnuts, keep 50 sheep and produce cheese. By incorporating permanent cover crops, our farm attracts insect-eating birds and several different species of natural enemies. The organic farming practices that we use have enhanced the biological activity of the farm and reduced walnut pests.
We do not need to work with harmful pesticides nor use copper as a fungicide. All of our soil bio remedies and organic fertilizers are homemade. By planting legumes (alfalfa, clover, vetch), we improve the grasslands to help fix nitrogen and feed the sheep. An abundance of earthworms in our farm’s soils improve aeration and fertility.
Our farm is located in the town of Calera de Tango, 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Santiago, Chile. We are surrounded by several villages. Families live just on the other side of our fence. Using healthy agricultural practices is critical for us to maintain a good relationship with our neighbors and community. Our farm produces organic walnuts using a process that has gradually recovered biological activity of the once degraded (and low production capacity) soil.
Organic nuts and sheep cheese are nutritious, healthy products that help support healthy diets in our community. Both products contain a variety of antioxidants and high concentrations of Omega 3, an essential fatty acid. It is important for us that our customers know they are getting healthy food they can trust. We place a high emphasis on safety, quality, and traceability, which is why we joined a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS).
Our Farming Practices
Our years-long experience of farming organically and observing our crops means we personally see what happens under our feet and everywhere else on the farm. The stimulation of microbial activity in our soils has improved our farm’s productive ecosystem and facilitates the natural process of organic walnut production.
“We pay attention to the things everyone looks at but don’t always see.”
Increasing soil organic matter has generated dynamics that are vital to maintaining soil fertility, enhancing microbiological activity, nutrient recycling, and ensuring that sustainable production on our farm is part of a whole agro-ecosystem.
The farm operates nine simultaneous processes to multiply beneficial micro-organisms:
Stimulating microbial activity in our soils has improved the ecosystem and allowed us to stop using harmful chemical inputs. This has helped facilitate the natural process of organic walnut production.
The varied groups of microorganisms in the compost we produce interact in complex ways to improve the soil’s physical and biological characteristics. They also improve natural fertility by fixing nitrogen, and enabling the healthy development of trees roots – thanks to natural hormones and antibiotics generated by millions of soil microbes. We also use Mycorrhizae and Actinomycetes, which are central elements in the complex biological community of our farm’s soils.
Our impact is reflected in productive, fertile pastures that feed the sheep and in the walnut trees. For example, we have seen:
- Increase in root volume
- Improvement in nutrient absorption
- Increase in leaf area, greater number of leaves, and photosynthesis
- Efficiency in water resource utilization
- Increase in natural resistance to disease and pest attacks
- Increase in nut production: % of high calibers and greater pulp weight
- More pollen of a better quality and quantity
- Natural frost resistance
Why Share Our Story?
We hope that by sharing our productive experiences with other farmers, we will inspire and increase the number of organic producers. We believe this could help them improve their families’ livelihoods and strengthen organic agriculture’s contribution to solving global challenges.