The spices of life

An Argentinean family shares their organic herbs and seasonings with the world.

Luke Disney | January 2004 issue

When you see the De Mi Campo farm’s stunning location in Argentina’s Calingasta Valley, in the foothills of the Andes, it’s not hard to imagine that it produces a wonderful array of scents and aromas.

The idea of marketing those smells to consumers around the world was the brainchild of Cecilia Zunino. Together with her brother Marcelo, she decided to convert their family farm to organic production methods. The reason: better access to the markets in Europe, and it fit better with the natural characteristics of the products they were selling. ‘She is a visionary,’ says daughter Milagros Zunino, ‘But she is also a good marketer, and she likes working with natural products from her home.’

De Mi Campo (‘From My Land’) produces a wide variety of herbs and spices including jars of lavender, sun-dried tomatoes, packets of rosemary, vinegar with herbs and organic tea. All the products are attractively wrapped and corporate gift packages are also available.

The products owe much of their exceptional quality to the special thermal climate in the Calingasta Valley, which creates dry and sunny growing conditions, perfect for herbs and seasonings. The plants and herbs are meticulously collected between December and April in the morning to avoid the harsh afternoon sunlight. The drying and grinding processes are done by hand according to local artesian traditions. Drying is done on teflon- mesh or natural cane racks, which are placed in shady locations, exposed to the mountain breezes. Even the packaging is done by hand using biodegradable boxes and envelopes. ‘Our processes have been certified by the Organización Internacional Agropecuaria (internationally recognised organic food mark) since we began, and we’re very keen on keeping it that way,’ says Zunino.

Four years on and the Zunino family has expanded its enterprise significantly. De Mi Campo now employs around 30 locals at the farm in Barrelas. Another 10 people work 170 kilometres away at the sales office in Mendoza, the capital of the San Juan province.

In addition to local sales in Argentina, they export their products to the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy. ‘We used family contacts and lots of travel to break into new markets,’ says Zunino. De Mi Campo plans to expand into Japan next year. And after that? ‘Anywhere is possible,’ says Zunino, ‘It’s a growing business.’

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