CCOF Board Members Join National Co-Op Grocers to Learn about Organic Production in Argentina

In May 2017, Phil LaRocca, chair of the CCOF, Inc. Board of Directors, and Allen Harthorn, chair of the CCOF Foundation Board of Trustees, participated in the National Co+Op Grocers’ tour of a cooperatively managed fair trade vineyard in La Rioja, Argentina. 
The La Riojana cooperative is working with the National Co+Op Grocers and the CCOF Foundation to help transition their grapes into organic production. LaRocca and Harthorn were brought to tour the facilities and meet with farmers and witness the project firsthand. In addition to making wine and olive oil, La Riojana also built and operates an agricultural technical school (agrotecnico) that hosts six grade levels. Administrators reported that a high percentage of the graduates have gone on to colleges and universities throughout Argentina. While touring the school and its farm, the father of one of the graduates of the school who went on to the university shared the difference the school made for the family.
In addition to the school, the group also visited the municipal water well that the cooperative built. The well now distributes water to all residents of the rural farming town Tilimuqui. The group also visited a health care facility that is now under construction.
The purpose of the trip for CCOF representatives was to offer support and guidance to the efforts of the cooperative to obtain organic certification for all 500 of their family grape and olive growers. The National Co+Op Grocers raised funds to help cover the certification expenses of those growers. The CCOF Foundation is providing grants and technical assistance to facilitate the program.
Members of the cooperative who choose to transition will be certified by the Argentinian certification organization ArgenCert. The cooperative currently has 25 percent of its land certified organic, but they have an ambitious goal of 100 percent certified organic by 2025. The region was spectacular, and the people were friendly and hospitable and dedicated to a cooperative approach to agriculture, education, health care, and public services. Most importanly, they were passionately dedicated to Fair Trade and organic production.
This article was submitted by Allen Harthorn of Harpos Organics and chair of the CCOF Foundation Board of Trustees.