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"Expertise, sustainability important when growing organic bananas"With four generations of history growing bananas in Mexico, Mayra Velazquez de Leon's family has lots of experience nurturing and harvesting bananas. Since Velazquez de Leon founded Organics Unlimited in 2000, that experience has been extremely useful, especially because of the unique demands that organic growing puts on a grower.
“Expertise in organic growing is imperative because there are many different challenges in growing an organic product,” noted Velazquez de Leon. “It’s important that the quality of an organic product is just as good as or better than that of a conventional one or the customer won’t accept it. It must look and taste as good as conventional. It’s a complicated process to achieve this through organic methods, but we have many years of developing strong growing programs that provide us with a good quality product.” Organics Unlimited relies on organic fertilizers and organic methods for controlling disease and pests. That requires a quick response to any irregularities, lest those incongruities affect the entire operation.
Quick action is especially necessary when growing bananas because of the diseases that threaten banana production around the world. Though Organics Unlimited grows their bananas in a region that is not under as much threat from disease as other regions are, production is just as susceptible to inclement weather.
“Cooler weather slows the growth rate, meaning it takes more time for bananas to mature, which affects supply and logistics,” explained Velazquez de Leon. “Organics Unlimited sees a slower growth rate on its farms in Mexico during the months of January through May. Thankfully, we are able to supplement those farms with product from our organic farms in Ecuador, since Ecuador is not as affected during those months from cooler weather due to its location on the equator.” That's an active measure to mitigate the effects of something as variable as the weather, and other active measures to ensure the operation is sustainable have been undertaken over the past several years.
“We’ve expanded our farm composting programs and we’ve changed the irrigation systems to wells, which gets away from some of the health and plant issues that can occur from using standing water,” said Velazquez de Leon. “The logistics chain and our carbon footprint is always considered when expanding operations. And, in Organics Unlimited farm areas in Mexico, an effort to expand to land not previously cultivated helps us be less disruptive of the environment.”
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