Meet the newest round of Plow to Plate grantees in Puerto Rico
World Central Kitchen is proud to announce that we have selected our new round of Plow to Plate grantees in Puerto Rico! Awarding more than $360,000 in funding, our grantees work ranges from agro-ecological farms to professional educational programs, sustainable fishing cooperatives, and much more.
Chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen first arrived in Puerto Rico just days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. After serving more than 3.7 million meals, we have transitioned our efforts on the ground to focus on long-term programs that address food insecurity on the island.
Before Hurricane Maria, 85% of Puerto Rico’s food was imported. The hurricane then wiped out at least 80% of the island’s agriculture, pushing the percentage of imports to over 95%. To address these challenges, WCK began exploring ways to support local agriculture and increase sustainability while simultaneously building resiliency against future natural disasters.
Plow to Plate supports and partners with smallholder farms, agricultural organizations, and small businesses in the food economy to strengthen their long-term capacity for food production, distribution, and sales. Plow to Plate operates through 3 central pillars of support: direct funding grants, networking and capacity building opportunities, and volunteers and agro-tourism.
Last week, we brought together both new from 2019 and previous grantees from 2018 for the Plow to Plate Forum in San Juan. Our Forum is a fantastic opportunity for different players in the food economy in Puerto Rico to connect, share ideas, and build relationships as they all work to building a more sustainable future for the food ecosystem on the island. Over the next few months, we will share stories about our grantees and their work in Puerto Rico.
MEET SOME OF OUR GRANTEES
Hacienda Los Amigos is an organic chicken egg farm operating on one acre of land in the mountains of Aibonito. The owner, Jose Raul Malave is a bonafide farmer, experienced electrician and welder, and lovingly refers to his hens as his “girls.” His chicken coup has capacity for 800 laying hens, producing approximately 680 organic, cage-free eggs daily. Currently, the farm is producing 100% of its capacity and demand for the product exceeds their productive capacity. With the Plow to Plate grant, Hacienda Los Amigos will build a new coop for another 800 laying hens and their nesting, feeding and drinking systems. The result would be a 50% increase in production the first year, and 100% increase the second year, thus keeping the farm in production year-round.
Urrutia Foods, Inc are the creators of Quesos Lucía, the first and only local goat cheese sold commercially in Puerto Rico. This cheese is produced locally and lovingly in Hacienda Renacer, a 108 acre family farm in Juncos that for decades operated as a cattle ranch and dairy farm until closing operations in 2006. In 2015, Maria Teresa Juan, a successful lawyer, decided to rescue her family's land and disprove the myth that "farming wasn't for women." As of today, Hacienda Renacer produces 200 pounds of goat cheese weekly, which reach consumers through restaurant sales and USDA sponsored farmer's markets. Soon Queso Lucia will be available in supermarket chains across the island, thanks to the Plow to Plate grant that will purchase and industrial vacuum sealing machine. This machine will inject nitrogen into the packaging, thus creating a 90-day shelf stable product, and opening up new market access for this homegrown cheese.
Foodscapes Caribe LLC is located on the Rio Chiquito Orchard family farm in the Northeast Ecological Corridor of Luquillo. The stunning 11 acre property lies on the foothills of the Rainforest, near rivers, beaches and a bioluminescent bay. Owners Carlos, a landscape architect, and Anabellie, a community educator, have developed educational programs that promote eating healthy and locally-grown foods amongst their community and proper nutrition among children through an alliance with Montessori schools.
Foodscapes has an active C.S.A. program, delivering boxes of fresh foods to households across the eastern region of the island. With their Plow to Plate grant they have purchased a large cargo vehicle to expand their C.S.A. and continue to deliver healthy products in Puerto Rican homes, with the hopes of turning landscapes into Foodscapes.
Meet Rafael and Sonia of Salvemos Las Abejas (Lets Save the Bees)! Located in Trujillo Alto, Salvemos Las Abejas is a family-owned apiary dedicated to promoting local agriculture. They manufacture boxes for hives, the main tool for the beekeepers, reproduce queen bees, and extract honey, pollen, and other by products. Salvemos Las Abejas is also dedicated to the defense of the Puertorican bee, working to increase the local bee population and empowering farmers to create toxic-free environments for bees to thrive. WCK funds will serve to purchase tools and materials to manufacture hive boxes and the process honey, as well as advanced lab equipment to reproduce queen bees, which will help them expand production and ultimately, fortify the local bee population.