At 7 o’clock in the morning on a cold winter’s day Adriana and Francisco’s hands are numb, picking with difficulty the raspberries they have been growing for the last eight years. She decides to have a short break for breakfast, hot tea and a piece of toast, to try and get warm. Every so often both of them follow this routine so that they can carry on doing what they are both crazy about, “their love for raspberries”, a devotion which has become a job with which to forge a future.
They tried breeding cows, but lost the entire herd. The way they tell it, deciding to grow raspberries “was our destiny. One night I dreamed I was planting raspberries and I knew that it was a sign, so I decided to do that; I told my wife and she agreed”, recounts Francisco.
They started with a small orchard and now have four hectares where, as well as raspberries, they plant loganberries, a fruit similar to blackberries. They benefit from the high price fetched by the fruit, as much as USD 10 a kilo, and their buyers are the large export companies. They add to their income with the sale of spoiled fruit to small itinerant salespeople.
Slowly and patiently they have strengthened and improved their business; they are proud of having expanded. At the beginning both of them did all the farming tasks, planting, harvesting and selling, but fortunately the business has grown, their raspberries are highly sought after and the increase in the labor pool has enabled them to hire people to help with the harvest. ”I would never have imagined we would be in a position to hire people”, says Adriana.
30 years ago Adriana had barely a plate, two spoons and a log on which to sit to eat with her husband and three children. The only money coming into the household was Francisco’s wage as an estate hand. Unfortunately her husband’s alcoholism meant that the money never made it home and was spent on drink. At those times Adriana was forced to go to her neighbors who helped her, giving her any bread they had spare. She does not forget that stage of her life and is grateful for what they did for her and her family then.
Adriana’s love for her husband gave her the strength to help Francisco to overcome his alcohol addiction. From then onwards their life changed and together they decided to go into raspberry production. Francisco wanted to be his own boss, to be freer in his work, and for his wife not to work for others either. She accepted the challenge, “I have always worked on the land, with corn and covered in mud. One day Francisco suggested that we get our own land, we chose raspberries, we liked it and here we are”, says Adriana.
They were both convinced that their future lay in raspberry production, but to make their goal a reality they needed financial backup that would enable them to start up their enterprise and subsequently support it as it grew. Finally they approached Emprende. Francisco overcame his initial misgivings about contracting “that credit thing” buoyed up by Adriana’s certainty, because it was apparent to her that “without loans you can’t grow much in business”. Their first loan was for USD 150; now, thanks to the five loans the institution has given them they have been able to lease more plots for their crops and buy a secondhand van to deliver the product to their customers.
Their affection for raspberries goes beyond the material goods they have been able to buy. “If you could see it at harvest time, see how those bright red fruits dotted all over the place… it is a feeling I can’t put into words, we both adore this job. You could say we are in love with raspberries” says Adriana, flashing an infectious smile at her listener. They have transferred this affection to their children and their grandchildren: “Mum, I don’t know what you did to me, but now I really enjoy picking raspberries”, confirms one of her children. Even their first granddaughter, just four years old, goes with her several times a week to work.
What Adriana most appreciates is being able to work as a family and, in particular, seeing how their effort and work have paid off. She has left the tree trunk which served as a table in their old house far behind: now she has a kitchen and a dining room. That is why she gives thanks every day to God, who put raspberries in her path.