Viñedo Emiliana S.A. Plantación: Trabajo contratado. [Valle de Casablanca, Chile].
Practice u./c. n. Something that is usually or regularly done, often as a habit, tradition, or custom.
Alliance c. n. An agreement to work with another person, organization, etc. to try to achieve the same thing.
“This is organic; it is not a show”, says Maria Macchiavelo, a 65-year-old worker at Viña Emiliana. She receives us among the alpacas that stand guard at the entrance of one of the organization’s vineyards in the Casablanca Valley, an hour away from Santiago de Chile.
Maria is one of the hidden figures behind the wine production at Viña Emiliana. She takes care of the animals that are part of the ecosystem created by Viñedos Emiliana to produce fair and organic wine.
At her age, she embodies the perfect alliance between organic awareness and Fairtrade. In other plantations in the valley, she would have little to no guarantee of a dignified retirement plan or of getting recognition for her work nor would she be in such good health. A health she displays as she nimbly takes us to the organic orchards, one result of the use of the Fairtrade Premium.
Thinking organic means thinking about consuming something that makes you feel good. What comes as a surprise is that it’s much more than just only that.
Organic farming is about protecting the workers. Surrounded by the organic orchard’s red peppers, Carlos Vera, a harvester, colleague and friend of Maria’s for more than 20 years, tells us about the harmful effects of using weed control agrochemical Glyphosate. “The workers were getting sick”.
Organic farming is about changing behaviors. The estate manager, Pedro, who has recently arrived at Viñedos Emiliana, admits that “The way we work here is lovely, I’ve struggled to come to terms with vineyards being messy as in traditional vineyards we’re used to keeping them bare”. He refers to the weeds that grow among the vineyards, and against what many think, it helps to build a protective shield against pests. And this requires more work in the long run, but Pedro says that “the plant has a healthy resistance. It becomes more resilient.”
Organic farming means becoming a water-use strategist. “We can’t afford to lose even a cubic meter of water and water distribution is essential. It isn’t about just opening a tap anymore. It’s all calculated. There are water shortages.” explains agricultural technician Francisco Cueto.
With over 850 hectares and more than 200 workers, Viñedos Emiliana transitioned into organic in 1998, and it was a challenge. It meant changing the way of cultivating the land, the way things are thought or done. “It’s a matter of conviction,” as the sustainability manager Sebastian Tramon explains because thinking organic involves more changes and commitments.
This conviction led Viñedos Emiliana to commit to Fair Trade some years later, in 2010. It was a natural alliance—love at first sight. Wine doesn’t just involve a few people, “It requires a lot of manpower and technical staff” [Francisco Cueto]. That way, organic awareness, and the Fairtrade certification make it possible to ensure the well-being of harvesters, operators, estate managers, mechanics, cleaning staff, administrative staff, technicians, engineers in agronomy, and so on.
Because Fairtrade improves decent working conditions with overtime pay and recognition of the harshness of the cold and hot conditions that involve the creation of wine “In that very long process, which happen in a harvest month” [Francisco Cueto]. And its workers explain it with pride “the work environment is more pleasant, they care about the workers … and I have not seen that in a vineyard of the 18 years that I have been working, “says Pedro.
Efforts are also rewarded and not just with the wages that aren’t always competitive due to the cost of a bottle not reflecting the amount of work entailed.
The existence of the Fairtrade Premium is relevant and bares results. Carlos, a harvester, was able to build his house and make it resistant to the recurrent earthquakes that affect the valley. Jocelyn, a harvester, knows she can safely leave her son at a kindergarten built with the premium’s benefits in a neighborhood where security can be an issue. Maria takes organic tomatoes home from the orchard—without them, her diet would be limited. Francisco, an operator, was able to take a leave of absence to grieve when he lost his wife and his daughter in less than a year. Today, workers who live close to the vineyards can cycle to work. These stories are good examples of how the Fairtrade Premium has been used and is the result of Fair Trade’s organic conscience.
To become a business Fairtrade Certified have to commit to several standards. The two major ones are Working Conditions Standards which involve, among other things, wages in line with national agreements, prioritizing permanent and legal contracts, freedom of association, and occupational health and safety. And Environmental Conservation Standards involve water management, respect for land use and the environment, and local communities.
 The Fairtrade Premium is a sum of money that is paid in addition to the retail price of a Fairtrade certified bottle or grape. The money is then managed by the Premium Committee that is made up by a group of workers who have been elected democratically. In coordination with an Assembly composed of the company’s employees, the Committee develops social projects for its communities.