There’s a lot that goes in to growing, harvesting, and freezing raspberries. Aside from requiring specific soil conditions (rich and well drained), and an ideal climate (mild winters, cool summers, and a rain-free harvest season), these incredibly delicate berries demand dedicated, passionate farmers. Regions of Chile, Serbia, Poland, Canada, California, Oregon and Washington State have these ideal environments.
As we continue our blog series to give you an insider’s glimpse into the lives of our raspberry farmers, we’re now featuring Antonio Dominguez, raspberry grower from Chile!
I have been working with raspberries for more than 30 years. In 1986, I started working for a local company that was responsible for 34 acres of raspberry farm as well as a small cold storage. All the fruit was frozen and exported primarily as Individually Quick Frozen (IQF). The farming in this location eventually began to suffer because of harsh climate so we moved further south in the country to a cooler climate. Today, our cold storage is located 400 kilometers south of Santiago and freezes raspberries which comes from our partner farms.
Because the fruit will be frozen as soon as possible after harvesting (within 24 hours), fruit has to be fully ripened. For us, color is the best indicator of ripeness, and we only pick raspberries when they are at their peak color.
In Chile, most raspberries go to processing as there is very little fresh raspberries in the local market. The main difference is the ripeness of the fruit at the moment of picking. For fresh raspberries, they need to be harvested before the fruit is fully ready because they need a few days before the fruit is in hands of the consumer. For the purpose of frozen raspberries, we harvest them at their ideal ripeness and when the fruit is ready to eat at that very moment.
Because of the word “processing,” people could think that the fruit has been artificially treated during the freezing process, but that is not the case. Fruit is simply frozen quickly to keep the natural condition of a fresh raspberry.
Food safety is incredibly important. Since raspberries are a “premium” fruit, it is a primary area of focus for us to reduce any health risk for consumers. In Chile, the raspberries are hand harvested and we instruct farmers and pickers the correct way to handle the fruit. In 2003, a national law in Chile was implemented, which puts minimum requirements for people and factories involved in the raspberry industry; this is focused on traceability and hygienic conditions during the entire supply chain: from field to package.
There is always a busy time. Aside from the raspberry harvest, there is pruning in late autumn/the beginning of winter, spraying the crops (if necessary), fertilizing the soil, fixing the posts, wires, and irrigation system, plus other farming jobs.