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Traditional agriculture in Chiloe

Diego Salas

Sandra Naiman lives in the small, quiet town of Quinchao, an island in the Archipelago of Chiloe. A charming Williche woman, Sandra is proud of the beautiful organic farm she has cultivated with her own hands. With no outside help and using only traditional methods, she has been able to create this space which captivates her visitors while preserving her ancestral traditions.

Tourists from around the world visit her orchard, take in its superb view and try its delicious artisanal products. But above all, they admire her unique, close-to-nature lifestyle. Sandra welcomes them warmly and offers a friendly tour through her farm, explaining her daily routines and answering questions from impressed visitors.

“Our conversations are lovely because, as they are foreigners, they also tell me about their experiences in their countries so we exchange knowledge,” says Sandra, who has worked with Tierra Chiloe for over seven years as part of the cultural activities offered to guests by the hotel.

“I’m really happy with the work I do. Although I mostly work alone, I see results and I know it can be done. Anyone can do it with a little sacrifice and patience,” Sandra explains with pride.

After years of hard work, Sandra’s farm looks amazing. You don’t have to be an expert to be awed by the quantity and quality of the crops she has on the five hectares of land inherited from her maternal grandparents.

“It was really hard at first. I had to clean up the land, remove trees and create spaces. I started little by little, with flowers and garlic. Now I grow potatoes, both in the greenhouse and outside. I have pigs, sheep and chickens. I define myself through my work, because I work alone all day long. I wake up very early and I go to bed very late.”

Sandra uses no chemical fertilizers, rotates her crops and plants native trees. She is dedicated to tending the land in an entirely organic way. “I am a nature lover,” she says, smiling. “I learned a lot from my grandparents and the older people I have met over my lifetime.”

Today Sandra is a leader in Chiloe agritourism and teaches other island women how to work farms organically. “Agriculture requires patience, it is not easy. Some crops take time and that’s why I try to help my community to learn how to take full advantage of the land.”

Before the excursion ends, Sandra offers visitors some of the products from her harvests, including homemade jams. This is a sweet way to send guests off with a smile after their magical encounter with nature through a form of agriculture based on traditional, sustainable practices.