5 FOR 5:
Q & A WITH DANIELA ROBLES, ORGANICS PRODUCE MANAGER OF GRUPO ALTA
The Sonora grape season has officially begun, and the first shipments of organic primes are the first to start of the season. Today we speak with Daniela Robles, Organics Produce Manager of Grupo ALTA, to discuss the topic of organics from the perspective of the grower and why this theme has become so important throughout the years for the company.
Q1: What is your role at Grupo Alta and what are your main responsibilities?
Daniela: My main role is to ensure the integrity of all our organic products here at Grupo ALTA, be in compliance with the regulations and provide a guarantee to the consumer that they are purchasing a healthy product that validates the organic label that is on the package. My day-to-day responsibilities involve working with our field engineers to detect issues with the crop and knowing how to combat those problems without resorting to agrochemicals. For the natural applications we do use, it is my job to research those companies and fully understand the ingredients comply with organic regulations. Growing organics is a management process, and it requires 100% natural processes from start to finish.
Q2: Why grow organics and why is it so important for our company?
Daniela: It has been part of our company’s vision since the very beginning. Our founders of the company knew and believed that growing the healthiest and most flavorful produce starts with growing it the way nature intended it to be. Not only does it allow us to grow healthy plants in healthy soils but it significantly falls in line with our commitment to preserving the environment. We truly believe in sustainable agriculture and the benefit it has for the world and future generations of farming. Not using any harmful agrochemicals or pesticides greatly reduces the risk of damaging the soils.
Daniela Robles - Organics Produce Manager of Grupo ALTA
Q3: What are some benefits to growing organics?
Daniela: We create and develop a balance between the soil, the ecosystem and agriculture. When you effectively find that balance, this significantly contributes to the microbials in the soils, and the ecosystem takes over. Just like we have in the human body, we have good microorganisms and bad ones. The good fight the bad to keep you healthy but it’s important to have bad microorganisms so the good ones can build immunity and help fight off very harmful organisms. Producing organically supports a healthy ecosystem within the farm soils and it works instead of using pesticides for example. A silly analogy I use is- it’s like having a free army of micro-sized workers who can fight diseases, viruses, etc. the human eye can’t detect as well as. Other benefits include keeping the fruits and vegetables you grow in the purest form which ultimately contributes to the consumers health. They get the full health benefits without having to worry about the produce containing chemicals or other unnatural substances.
Q4: What is the most difficult part of growing organics?
Daniela: Growing organics can be very expensive and if not done correctly, it can jeopardize the entire production. For newer companies wanting to grow organics because the market trends are good and they want to jump on board, these companies usually compromise their organic production and fail because they didn’t have the proper management or processes in place. Growing organics means you need more supervision, more field engineers to check the progress of plant development and doing a lot of processes manually by hand instead of using machines or devices. It can be extremely difficult for companies new to organics to integrate processes that support a successful operation.
Q5: What is an interesting fact about growing organics that most people don't know about?
Daniela: Besides adding beneficial organisms to the soil, we also invest a lot of time and resources to beneficial insects and the flowers that attract them. All of our fields have dozens of flower sections next to them. For an outsider, they see the flowers and think it’s just for show, but there are so many benefits to using beneficial insects to combat the harmful insects. This adds to the ecosystem we are trying to create and not many consumers know this.
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