Strawberries that grow dreams

María is the owner of two plots of land with 5,000 and 10,000 strawberry plants, respectively. Her first crop was so successful that, together with her husband, they became the biggest strawberry producers in their community. She has received nine loans which she has invested in her truck, in farm machinery and seeds.

When María Orellana finished her auditing studies and was starting her career in the financial sector, her father’s death led to a change of plans. She inherited two hectares of land in the Araucania region, over 700 km from the capital of Chile, in the middle of an indigenous community. She and her husband, Sergio Castillo, decided to work the land and make a living from growing fruit and vegetables. Sergio sold them in the Pinto de Temuco fair and their high quality won them loyal customers who soon started going directly to the couple’s home to buy their produce.

To expand the business, María started growing strawberries. Her first crop was so successful that they became the biggest producers in their community. To achieve that, they sought technical advice from several state institutions in order to improve all their planting, irrigation, harvesting and
sales procedures. But their skill as producers was not enough; to grow they needed financing. They heard about Emprende Microfinanzas thanks to a farmer from the indigenous community, who told them that there was an institution in Temuco that helped those on low incomes. They were granted their first loan with the institution in 2008 for USD 400, the first of the nine loans with which María and Sergio repaired their truck and bought machinery and seeds.

“Emprende helped us a lot so that we could invest. Thanks to that we have been able to make a go of it. I am grateful for their trust in us. They lend us the capital so that we can make a sound investment and get a good crop”, she says.

María is the owner of two plots of land with 5,000 and 10,000 strawberry plants, respectively. Her working day is tough, but she doesn’t falter. She gets up early, picks the fruit and carefully places it in boxes that her husband then transports in his van at sundown to the market in Temuco. “I love working with strawberries. When I get up and I see my fields, I see that, whatever the weather, ripe fruit have appeared overnight, and I find that very pleasing. In the future I would like to carry on working with
Emprende to continue improving my investment, I need to invest more”, she says, as she weaves her way through the lines of strawberries.

She has new projects in sight. She wants to improve their infrastructure and buy products that enable her to raise her crop’s performance, to bring forward the picking date for the fruit so that she can get a better sales price. “In the end, strawberries have become part of my life and I want to carry on perfecting my production continually so as to be able to continue growing, and what better way to do that than with my favorite fruit”, she exclaims, proudly.