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DIONISIO

"Optimism as fertilizer"

Dionisio is a small-scale avocado farmer in a valley near Trujillo, Peru. Born in the region of Catamarca, where he worked for years as a cattle rancher, Dionisio moved to the valley in 1984 and bought a 3-hectare farm. There, he continued working as a rancher, grew maize for the local market, and lived with this wife, children, and grandchildren on his land.

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In 2011, the leader of a local avocado grower association approached Dionisio about producing avocados. Although he’d never produced avocados before, Dionisio accepted the challenge — dedicating 1 of his 3 hectares to growing 100 Hass avocado trees.

Two years later, the association began working with Fairtrasa, exporting avocados as their young trees came to fruition, and receiving training from Fairtrasa’s team in crop optimization and sustainable farming. The association soon obtained its Organic and Fairtrade certifications.

When Dionisio’s trees produced their first harvest in 2014, he was the valley’s leading producer, in only his first attempt at growing avocados.

“God blessed me with the best harvest,” he says. “I take good care of them, and they produce well.”

With confidence and a wry smile, Dionisio attributes his success to the optimistic mindset he applies to everything he does.

“There’s no secret. If you work hard and have hope and confidence that it will work out, it will work out. If you think of the bad, it won’t. People shouldn’t be pessimistic. If you think, ‘Oh, I’m going to lose,’ then you’re better off not planting at all. You need to think, ‘I’m going to win.’ That’s the mentality I have.”

“People shouldn’t be pessimistic. If you think, ‘Oh, I’m going to lose,’ then you’re better off not planting at all. You need to think, ‘I’m going to win.’ That’s the mentality I have.”

Avocados ripening on Dionisio’s farm

Although Dionisio has always harbored this attitude, things were never easy for him. He struggled as a rancher in Catamarca because of conditions in the milk industry, and struggled selling maize to middle-men in Trujillo because prices were so low.

But when some friends from Catamarca came to visit him recently, they could hardly believe their eyes.

“They asked me what I was doing, and I said I was producing and exporting avocados. And they said, ‘What? You? Exporting?’ They couldn’t believe it. But it’s true!”

With conditions improving, production expanding, profits increasing, and organization solidifying, the other farmers in Dionisio’s association have come to share his attitude, he says.

“We’re more optimistic now that we’re producing and exporting. Fairtrasa is helping us and buying our produce for export — what more help do we need? I’m happy.”