Organic markets in Chile proliferate

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 Huerta del Lago agro-ecological fair.Huerta del Lago agro-ecological fair.
By Caterinna del Río Giovannini
Translation by Taylor Ffitch
Every 15 days in the Patio Aire Puro, located on the corner of Decher and Independencia streets in Puerto Varas, local organic farmers and producers meet to sell potatoes, carrots, spinach, raspberries, bread, free-range eggs, even environmentally-friendly soaps, and many other products. “It has gone very well for all of us, a lot of people come. We plan to be here all year, every first and third Saturday of the month,” says Vicki Johnson, who organized and launched the Huerta del Lago agro-ecological fair in August.
Initiatives like this one, which are beginning to gather strength in places like Puerto Varas are now part of the routine for residents of other cities in Chile and throughout the world.
Movements like vegetarianism and veganism have been growing, and with good reason. People are changing their diets and lifestyles motivated by a concern for adopting habits that are beneficial for their health while also keeping in mind the impact they have on the enviroment.
The endless number of studies and documentaries from scientists and environmentalists have contributed to this welcome trend, with their warnings about the consequences of the way we grow, fertilize, transport, and consume food, and that many modern illnesses and disorders are largely the result of pesticides, chemicals, genetic modification, and artificial components in our food. 
Nowadays, Chileans are thankfully adopting consumer habits that were already a way of life just a few generations ago, like buying directly from producers themselves.
Organic exports from Chile were valued at more than US$ 280 million at the end of 2018.Organic exports from Chile were valued at more than US$ 280 million at the end of 2018. 
Organic farming has become especially relevant, as it focuses on avoiding the use of pesticides, chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics. For a product to be considered organic, it must follow certain established rules. In Chile these rules are laid out in Law No. 20.089, which in Article 2 indicates that “for the purposes of this law, ‘organic agricultural products’ are understood to be those that come from a wholistic production management system in the agriculture, livestock, or forestry environment, which support and improve the health of the agro-ecosystem, in particular biodiversity, biological cycles, and biological soil activity.”
“We only sell certified organic products here,” says Vicki Johnson, adding, “responsible, local, and plastic-free consumption is super important. This fair means that people buy at home. It’s positive both for health and because it lowers gas and fuel usage. Getting food to market has a huge CO2 footprint. Here, on the other hand, you know who is selling and where the food comes from.” 
Vicki Johnson, founder of the organic fair in Puerto Varas.Vicki Johnson, founder of the organic fair in Puerto Varas.
In cities like Santiago, organic farmer markets have been going on for more than five years. El Mercado Drugstore in Providencia is one of these. Two Saturdays a month almost 50 stands are there offering varied products, from fruits and vegetables to environmentally friendly personal hygiene products. Other communities have also seen the success of these fairs: every Wednesday and Saturday the Mercado Orgánico takes place at Plaza Peru in the community of Las Condes, as well as the Ecoferia at the Corporación Cultural Aldea del Encuentro in La Reina. And every year the list of events like this gets longer as they expand into other parts of the country. Organic producers have even organized delivery systems in which they all work together collaboratively.  
In Puerto Varas, “La Cucha” is an initiative of local entrepreneur Andreas Winkler. He and his team ensure that goods from different producers are collected and then distributed. “We represent them and manage this system. It’s a network of producers supplying a network of consumers. It’s a collective supply chain,” he explains.
               Quilacahuin Ecológico.Quilacahuin Ecológico.
Organizations like La Cucha bring together zero-waste, locally produced products that are fair-trade and environmentally friendly. This directly benefits consumers, but also producers. “I sell 500 liters of tomato salsa a year, as well as pesto, jams, and basil,” says Isabel Montesinos, who, in addition to selling her products through La Cucha, also travels from Osorno to set up a stall at the agro-ecological market in Puerto Varas, where she also sells juices, cherry tomatoes, lavender, and other products.
Other countries are also interested in organic products produced in Chile. Ecocert, an organic certification organization founded in France, already has more than 400 certified Chilean businesses in organic agriculture, and organic exports rose from US$50 million in 2009 to US$ 280 million at the end of 2018.
The future of organic markets is promising. According to the website in the next five years France, for example, will double its organic production. Although Europe and North America are definite leaders when it comes to organic foods, in Chile more and more people are becoming interested in healthier and sustainable alternatives and the future is bright here too with initiatives like Huerta del Lago in Puerto Varas. 
How to go to Huerta del Lago
Location: Patio Aire Puro, 50 Independencia, Puerto Varas.
Hours: 11 am - 2 pm, every Saturday during summer; every first and third Saturday of the month rest of the year.


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