From the Farmer's Tractor
May 25, 2008
Marisa O’Donnell, 49, farms acai (ah-sigh-ee)fruit for her RMO Rainforest Fruits operation. Located in the middle of the Brazilian rainforest, the company runs a .4 square mile organic acai plantation, where ripe berries are handpicked throughout the year. A native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, O’Donnell has been farming for five years. Prior to farming acai, O’Donnell managed an organic acelora cherry farm.
How did you get into acai farming?
I’ve always been an advocate for pesticide-free whole organic foods. During one of my visits to Brazil in 2002, I tasted açai juice and noticed an increase in my energy and well being. This led me to launch RMO Rainforest Fruits. We sell açai as an ingredient for other products like juice.
How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years?
We now grow organic açai. The decision to go organic started as a personal choice, but evolved into a business decision as I now see the high demand for it.
How will acai farming evolve in the next five years?
Açai berries are currently grown wild but I believe more farmers will be planting açai palm trees and that more organic açai will become available. We do not harm the açai palm tree in any way. We only harvest the açai berry branches and therefore, do not pose any negative environmental impact.
How does a farmer know what a retailer will want a year from now?
I maintain close relationships and constant communication with retailers and follow market alert channels.
What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm?
There are a variety of ways in which RMO Rainforest Fruits is contributing to the local community as a socially responsible company. One example is that we give away our by-products to an institution that provides them to the poor. They then turn the by-product into jewelry and sell it at markets in Brazil. We also help a foster home in Belem that provides shelter for children between the ages of two and 18.
What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person?
My customers know that I am passionate about what I do. I strive to provide them with the highest quality açai and excellent customer service.