Rene and María Fernanda at one of their farms where they feature organic products. They market their products in glass containers to achieve better quality and have less impact on the environment.
Knowledge of the importance of consuming healthy and environmentally friendly foods is gaining momentum and a growing market share in Ecuador. To help meet the demand by consumers for organically grown, high-quality products, Zamorano graduates René Vela Lozano, Class of 2015, and María Fernanda Sotomayor, Class of 2017, are leading the way. They are the co-founders of La Tamia Organic Farm and La Alquería Organic Farm located in (respectively) Toacaso and Pujili in the province of Cotopaxi, where they produce vegetables, fruits, dairy products, eggs, jams and artisanal preserves.
The idea of providing Ecuadorians an opportunity to access healthier food products arose two decades ago when René’s parents decided to leave the city of Quito to set up a comprehensive farm to grow more healthy food for Rene’s family. Later, they began providing fresh food to the surrounding community through market sales. Today, Rene and María Fernanda are using the knowledge and skills they learned at Zamorano to improve and expand the businesses through organic production of vegetables and livestock products. They expanded the cultivation area from one to seven hectares of production. In addition, they expanded their distribution of products to important markets across their country, and are now providing healthy food choices for thousands of Ecuadorians every year.
La Tamia Organic Farm began as a small enterprise years ago. Today, its products are enthusiastically received and applauded by consumers. La Tamia’s sixty products include horticultural crops and some fruit trees. A line of specialty products, notably artisanal preserves, are manufactured using their own raw materials, providing healthy, environmentally friendly value-added food alternatives and increasing farm income. Due to growing market demand, the La Alquería Orgánica brand was created to provide dairy products from cows that graze in organic pastures, and eggs from free-range hens.
Rene and María strive to maintain a variety of vegetable offerings, including lettuce, broccoli, onions, radishes, beets, carrots, and such herbs as coriander, parsley and celery. “We have a wide range of crops and we try to offer that variety to our customers. We have the peace of mind that everything that leaves the farm is 100% guaranteed to be healthy for the consumer. This inspires us to continue working hard in these endeavors. We are careful to nourish our plants with organic products. We apply an organic fertilizer with a base of animal manure and we combine it with other biomass waste to create a fertilizer that is guaranteed to meet the plant’s full nutritional demands,” said Rene.
The dream of becoming agronomists led this couple to study at Zamorano, where they learned and strengthened their knowledge of agriculture and business. They recall that their alma mater taught them to see that the earth is their best ally for producing their food, and today they support conscious eating. “We focus on the national market with the idea of bringing healthy and safe food choices to Ecuador. Our confidence in being able to reach our goals comes from our years at Zamorano, where we learned to dare to try until we succeed,” shared María Fernanda.
Using their farms as living classrooms, the couple also gives back to their local community by sharing their knowledge. They receive students from local schools, and demonstrate the process of producing vegetables, fruits, milk and eggs. “Our project aims to make people aware of healthy eating, raise awareness to avoid excessive food waste, and prevent children from thinking that obtaining food is only a matter of going to the grocery store and picking up the product from aisle 3. We are showing people the value of agriculture and that the experience of organic agriculture is possible in our country,” Rene concluded.