On September 20, 2017, Puerto Rico received the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria. A category five storm which destroyed the electrical grid of the island and wiped out millions of dollars in locally grown produce. Although farm products are distributed and supplied to local and national supermarkets around the island and in the United States, produce represents a substantial amount of business for the agricultural industry.
Since Hurricane Maria and the humanitarian crisis Puerto Ricans dealt with, local farmers are betting on selling their products directly to locals. Another strategy is uniting with other farmers to create agricultural coalitions, to skip the middleman and get paid what they deserve for their products. Alvaro Pinilla, a local avocado farmer from Yabucoa, lost over $70,000 as a result of the destructive pass of the Hurricane in 2017.
“I saw my land completely swiped out, and my trees got cleaned out, not even one leaf was left. I had to cancel and pay for the orders I couldn’t deliver to my clients.”
He encourages everyone to get in contact with organizations like Frutos del Guacabo, Guakia or Sweetwater Farms, among others. Frutos del Guacabo is an agricultural collective that helps small farmers sell their products to local restaurants and supermarkets. They conduct different farmers markets every month to make sure everyone gets paid fairly.