Artichokes in Peru
Sep 05, 2013 • By

Securing a sustainable artichoke crop

Over the last six years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with our co-packer partner and farmers in Junin, Peru, a community tucked neatly on the slopes of the Andes Mountains, to devise a strategic plan that secures a sustainable source of premium artichokes for the Green Giant customers in France and throughout Europe.

The landscape is a unique one in that many of these small farms, typically one to two hectares (the equivalent of two to four acres), are owned and operated by women whose husbands were killed during the civil unrest during the 1980s.

Artichokes in Peru

After the civil unrest in the Junín region of Peru in the 1980s, many of the region’s farmers and land owners are women who were left behind to support their families and communities.

The farms have historically grown corn and potatoes, which are sold locally or domestically because the farmers lack the business knowledge or access to the export vehicles.

Artichokes were introduced to the region by Franciscan monks, but until now, small farmers in Peru have struggled to fully capitalize on this crop that has strong export potential, primarily due to a lack of capital, know-how and access to stable and continuous export markets.

Green Giant/Le Geant Vert, Europe’s leading supplier of premium artichoke hearts and bottoms, along with the General Mills Foundation and local packaging company AgroMantaro (exclusive co-packer for Geant Vert Europe for shelf-stable artichokes), will invest $1.1 million over four years to benefit the farming communities in Peru’s Junin region.

Artichokes in Peru

Junín-Peru, has proven to be a region with an ideal growing climate and optimal soil conditions for the premium artichoke hearts sold by Green Giant throughout France and Europe.

With the help of AgroMantaro and CARE, we’ve established a program where the farmers can get business training and access to microloans enabling them to be strategic about their artichoke crop management and planning, and establish associations with other area farmers to collectively negotiate transportation rates and assist at harvest time.

Not only that, the artichoke hearts and bottoms are a premium export crop, which offers the farmers a sustainable income they have never had.

Artichokes in Peru

The project team members (from left to right): Alejandro Rojas, CARE PERU; Carlos Caballero (third from left), General Mills; Augusto Fernandini, Agro Mantaro; Bethy Muñoz, artichoke farmer; and Jean Claude Saphore, co-packer manager, General Mills France Seretram. The photo also features Pablo Aguinaga (second from left) sourcing manager at General Mills, who was invited along to learn about the project.

I explain the agricultural and social environment for farmers in Peru in this video clip, along with the outlook for Green Giant’s crop production there.

This reliable income extends beyond the fields – making quality healthcare now accessible and the opportunity to gain a better education, even college degrees, for the farmers and their children.

One farmer, Bethy Munoz, whom I met on my spring trip to Peru, proudly shared that through the additional income she’s earned from exporting her artichoke crop, she’s sent her oldest son to the University of Lima in the capitol city of Peru where he’ll soon graduate – the first in her family to do so.

Artichokes in Peru

Depending on how much land farmers devote to artichokes, families can make up to $3,700 (U.S.) in profit per hectare, increasing their income by an average of 36 percent annually.

At Green Giant, we have a long tradition of working closely with farmers to promote both sustainable crops and a robust supply chain. The Junin project is a perfect example of that – but with an increased focus on improving the environmental, economic and social impacts of sustainable sourcing on this region of Peru.

We strongly believe that this new model of creating share value along the supply change is the way of the future to see long-term, positive changes in the livelihood of farmers that grow crops for our brands and consumers.

The same principles are at work in our vanilla sourcing program, featured in a previous blog post, titled “Vanilla program to help Madagascar farmers.”

We’re proud of the foundation we’ve established in Peru, but are even more enthusiastic about the long-term benefits and opportunities the project creates for the Junin farming community and economic vitality of the region.