Click here to read Part I of “Through the Avocado Obstacle Course” by Jessica Jones-Hughes
Finish Line: Pragor
You made it! You finished alongside enough fellow producers and found a buyer who cares!
After hearing about the harsh realities of the avocado market in Mexico, I was stunned. Nicole and I had dug into the avocado world ahead of our trip, but what we learned was nothing close to the challenges we heard first hand in Mexico, making Pragor’s story even more impressive. Pragor began six years ago, working with a different fair trade organization, but still faced many of the same challenges. The trials they faced only made them stronger and more dedicated to finding truly respectful trading partners.
In 2010, Pragor courageously reorganized and decided they would control the process; organizing staff and a board of directors, managing clients and sales, and controlling the process of harvest and packing coordination, quality control and shipping to customers themselves. Pragor is now composed of 20 socios (producer members) who each own an average of 5-8 hectares land, all 100% organic. The members of the coop farm on land that is lush and mountainous. Many of the huertos have a diverse mix of avocados growing alongside lemons, limes, peaches, apples, pumpkins and cactus. On several farms live the oldest Hass trees in the area, now 50 and 60 years old, and still producing avocados.
Many of the members transitioned to organic 10 or more years ago, a revolutionary move at the time, especially in Mexico. Some decided to transition after a family member passed away from cancer, potentially as a result of the pesticides used when farming conventionally. Now their farms are lined with homemade organic products used to combat tree diseases and increase fertilization. See the photo of what I like to call “pumpkin stew” used to add nutrients to the soil.
During our visit, our new friends proudly showed us around their beautiful farms. We sat on the mountaintop farms, enjoying late lunches of delicious Chile rellenos, homemade tortillas, guacamole and other traditional dishes.
Despite the pride and excitement each producer had for their land, you could see the tired lines of hard work on their faces. This work has not been easy and Pragor has been fighting the battle for many years. Right now their biggest challenge is finding trading partners to work with who believe in their small farmer mission and will engage in the respectful and fair business relationships their members deserve. As you can imagine, there are not many organizations out there like Equal Exchange.
To encounter a farmer coop that has the courage to organize together while facing the realities of the drug cartels, multinational control and strict USDA regulation is truly rare. Pragor’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in today’s world.
Nelson Mandela put it best, “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Pragor has reached the top of a small mound. They are looking ahead to the many more hills lying in front of them. As Equal Exchange begins our work with Pragor there are many mountains to overcome: Will distributors and stores take the risk to carry these fair trade avocados? Will consumers hear the story of Pragor and pay more for their avocados? Will enough individuals make the decision to stand with Pragor so that fair trade avocados succeed? Change will only be successful if producers and consumers band together and climb each hill, united as one.