Some mates with… Claudia Plocher

22 Feb 2022

We chatted with Claudia Plocher, producer of yerba mate and winner of the “La Orden del Mate” award

Where are they located and what is the history of the company?

The farms in which they work are in Montecarlo, Misiones. The best-known farm is Tres Puentes, Laharrague, because it works longer and in an integrated manner with the yerba mate plantation and sheep farming. It is a farm that belonged to my grandmother and then to my father and he was the one who made the oldest herbs. Even in the beginning, that farm was jungle, which was cut down by my father, his sisters and his brother-in-law, since the adjoining lot belongs to my father’s sister.

Our lot had different agricultural uses over time, from yerba mate, through plantations of tung, tea in some sectors, kiri, and yerba mate with diverse afforestation such as araucaria angustifolia, Australian cedar, grevilea and native trees.

Since 2017, when the Agricultural Cooperative invited an informative meeting on organic certification in yerba mate, we began to think about organic yerba mate. It had been a year since my husband and I took charge of the farms and since we are tour guides and have worked for 20 years in the Iguazú National Park, we have environmental conservation training and we are fascinated by the jungle and what is typical of the place, such as the trees. , birds, insects, native animals in general and their interrelationships. This new project seemed to us an interesting challenge and more similar to our philosophy than the cultivation of traditional yerba mate.

What values ​​does the company have?

Work, perseverance, honesty, continuous improvement and teamwork.

Why did you decide to turn to organic production?

For us there should be no other way to farm than the organic way. We have it built in, it’s our way of looking at crops. We believe that despite the fact that there are pests, they can be combated through a natural way, which is by having a plantation and next to it a strip of jungle, or native trees within the yerbal, which will house all the birds that eat bad insects to cultivation, achieving a balance. In addition to the benefit of partial shade provided by trees, the slow absorption of water on rainy days, among other benefits. And the cultural tasks of cleaning the crop can be carried out with mechanical or manual cutting practices, as well as the fertilizer to be used must be organic, knowing other non-traditional producers, we copy the incorporation of the sheep into the production cycle, as weed cleaner and vines and as a fertilizer for yerbal. During the night confinement, more manure is collected from the sheep, which is composted and incorporated into the yerba mate as organic fertilizer.

What is the yerba mate production process like?

Yerba mate takes about 4 years to be harvested for the first time, which is done in this case, still manually, by harvesters, called tareferos, who break the segments by hand and cut them with pruning shears depending on their thickness. with saws. That green leaf is collected in punches that are like squares of cloth that are tied once the punch is loaded with leaves, forming something like a giant 1.5m x 1.5m package.

All these punches are loaded onto a truck that takes them to the Secadero where the leaves go through a drying process, which is a rapid drying at high temperatures where the leaves are crispy and pass to a drying belt and then to maturation chambers with controlled temperatures. In the Mill, the final process of grinding and packaging takes place, to reach the consumer of the mate.

What are the benefits of organic yerba mate?

An organic yerba mate is good for the environment and is beneficial because it does not contain any chemical synthesis substance that harms the health of those who drink the mate. And in addition, it has a better price for those who produce it, both in the price of the green leaf and in the elaborated yerba mate. It has multiplied benefits to our way of seeing.

What characteristics does organic yerba mate have?

An organic yerba mate in terms of appearance and flavor can be similar to a conventional one, only that its planting, growth and harvesting process is carried out with standards that respect the environment and other very strict standards of cleanliness of the harvesting tools, transfer vehicles, disinfected dryer. And during grinding and packaging, the process is also carried out with all the corresponding health regulations and in specific places to handle organic yerba. This yerba should not be mixed with conventional yerba.

What is the difference with the conventional one?

At first glance, conventional yerba mate has no difference with the organic one. We know that from the plantation to the drying and grinding, it has a careful process that is free of chemical products and strictly sanitary. And as for the flavor, each brand of yerba has its own particular flavor, which depends on the origin of the green leaf, how it was dried, type of grinding and storage form and time. Not all herbs taste the same and there is nothing written about tastes, as the saying goes. In general, an organic weed has a milder taste than a conventional one.

What is the importance of certification?

The certification is the guarantee that we are doing things as indicated by the legislation for organic production, which allows us to place the production in special markets, which value that certification, without which they would not buy a yerba as organic.

How important was it for you to receive the distinction of “The Order of Mate”?

The distinction was a surprise. And it motivates us to continue on the path of organic and ecological production that is sustainable over time.

How can the consumer acquire the products?

We market our organic yerba mate under the PAMPA brand, through the Cooperativa Agrícola Mixta de Montecarlo, which is 90 years old and was founded by many of our grandparents. It has helped us start the certification and provides us with financing for plantations and permanent technical advice, in addition to marketing the production of organic yerba mate, which can be purchased in almost all Argentine provinces in supermarkets and hypermarkets and is exported to Europe. , Arab countries, Canada and the United States.

What future aspirations do you have?

One always wants to improve the plantations, this means that they are beautiful to look at, that they have a good yield and price, which can only be achieved with good agricultural practices and a lot of dedication, and that the final product pleases the consumer and sells well. We like the contact with other producers to exchange experiences, which is why we promote training in our farm and attend training. Due to our tourist training, we think of carrying out bird watching activities in the farms, as well as agroecological tours for tourists and the surrounding community.