||Friday, March 27th 2009 [ versión español ]
With the goals of contributing to environmental conservation through organic production and propelling agriculture in Puerto Rico, a group of students from the College of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM), undertook the task of initiating the innovative step that aspires to go beyond university borders. NatuCosecha is a project that attempts to promote and strengthen the organic food industry through distribution and marketing.
This initiative, the idea of students in the course Development of Agro-Enterprises, forms part of the UPRM Department of Agricultural Economy. Through this initiative students emphasize the importance of consuming products that have not been chemically processed nor fertilized with chemicals that could alter their natural quality.
“The innovativeness of the project lies in the fact that we sell the products by petition to the consumers,” explained Carlos Padró, member of the team that every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday sets up their selling post in front of the Student Center. He added that they receive orders by fax, e-mail or telephone for previously listed products and the quantities desired. The students communicate with local farmers to order and buy the products that they sell to the consumers who ask for them. The NatuCosecha market sells from plantains, lettuce, and peppers to medicinal and artesian products.
Professor Flor Delgado Philippi, who teaches the course, explained that this project revealed its potential, from the beginning, just as other projects that have been evaluated in past semesters.
“The students began handing out questionnaires to the different departments as well as sending them by e-mail. Stemming from the results of the surveys we were able to perceive a good reception for the project, which made us a little more secure. We began with exhibits in front of the Student Center and the reception was excellent. The participation by the students surprised us a little, we didn’t think there would be so many students willing to buy vegetables and cook, showing an interest in the products that they have to prepare. Also, in general the employees have responded excellently,” shared Delgado Philippi.
She added that NatuCosecha is a project which seeks to distribute and sell products such as vegetables and viandas (root vegetables) produced organically, “because there isn’t organic certification in Puerto Rico and local products offer the consumer a fresh and healthy product that through its production we guarantee environmental conservation and at the same time, being a local product, we promote local agriculture.”
Distinct from other projects, NatuCosecha has had more exposure to the public by means of the press, among other methods; therefore the response from the people has been greater than on other occasions. Previously, the student’s work was limited to the work done on the Alzamora Farm and distribution to certain restaurants or other businesses that approached them.
Doctor Rosa F. Martínez Cruzado, professor of the Humanities Department, expressed the reasons that motivated her to acquire these products. “I am very interested in good nutrition, organic nutrition that is free of chemical products that one doesn’t want to ingest and also I want to help this student initiative that to me seems excellent.”
Richard Pérez, student of the Department of Material Sciences, mentioned that consuming these products already makes him feel more secure, as well as the fact that location of the stand at the entrance of the Student Center makes buying easier.
According to Delgado Philippi, NatuCosecha will surpass its own expectations, those of the course’s objectives and those of the project. With this methodology, professor Delgado Philippi intends for the students to have the opportunity to see their ideas in action through business. Also, she added that the project shows that the agricultural economy has been growing and that they have the reception that allows the consumer goes to the producer. On the other hand, the students understand that the project’s goal is to provoke the creation of other similar projects from the interest that has arisen in the students of the College.
At the beginning, this type of methodology formed part of a pilot project sponsored by the Development Bank, in which other universities in the UPR system participated. Students in this course have enjoyed the work, as well as being able to observe and experiment everything that goes with running a business. Even though the course is of a practical nature, the professor assured that it has its academic component, since the students must write and turn in reports that show evidence of their administrative and commercial skills. Students must respond to other assignments corresponding with the class as well.
“With this type of project, agriculture becomes a viable alternative for the economy in a variety of the areas that compose it and everything that can come from them,” stated Delgado Philippi. She added that in the middle of an actual economic crisis NatuCosecha would be able to continue projecting itself in other spheres of the Island.
In closing this edition, the students of NatuCosecha received first place in the Elevator Pitch in the People’s Choice Award competition which objective is to promote business experiences between students.
If you are interested in consuming these agricultural products, you may place your order through e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 787-203-0480. You may also access the webpage at http://sites.google.com/site/natucosecha.
Students of NatuCosecha receive orders for the products by fax, e-mail and telephone.
From the left: Lucas Noble, Roberto Sánchez, Tatiana Rodríguez, François Giuliani Castillo and professor Flor Delgado Philippi.
Photographs by Carlos Díaz / UPRM Press