The story of Estancia Buenaventura SRL is really the story of four families, two from the United States and two from Argentina, who through good fortune came to know each other and decided to engage in business together. The two Argentine families are headed by Pedro A. Arias and Osmar A. Monaldi. Carl is heavily involved in the day-to-day management of the Estancia with Pedro serving as our Managing Partner. The two American families are those of Christopher G. Oechsli and J. Carl Mundt both of whom live near Seattle, Washington. They are especially involved in long range planning, financing and marketing and in the company’s organic polenta project in the U.S. The four partners are in daily contact by telephone and E-Mail. In addition, the partners meet in Argentina or the United States 4 or 5 times per year.

     Pedro Arias lives in the Argentine province of Salta and is a member of one of the oldest families in Argentina whose roots go back to the original Spanish colonists who came down into Argentina from Peru looking for silver in the 1500’s. Pedro is educated as an agricultural engineer and has spent his life engaged in agriculture in Salta. Osmar Monaldi’s paternal ancestors arrived in Argentina from San Marino in Italy around 1900. The family made their way to the province of Jujuy, immediately to the north of Salta, and began to carve out lives as farmers. While still a young man, Osmar pioneered the development of farming in a remote region of northwestern Argentina known as the Valley of Anta. Over a 20-year period, from 1985-2005, he built himself up until now he farms an immense amount of property in Anta – nearly 20,000 hectares or 50,000 acres – and is one of the most experienced farmers in that part of the country. The Arias and Monaldi families have had much interaction over the years and Pedro and Osmar have known each other since they were boys.

     Chris Oechsli is an American born in Costa Rica of Swiss and Syrian descent; he spent most of his youth in Latin America. By training he is an attorney but for the past 15 years he has worked in London and now in Seattle for a charitable foundation. Carl Mundt, also an American, is of Irish and German descent. He was born in New York City but spent many years as a youth in Uruguay and Argentina. He is also an attorney by profession and it was in a law firm in Seattle in 1980 that Chris and Carl first met. In 1990 Carl left his law practice behind and went into business with a commercial fishing company in Seattle. In 1992 he lived in Buenos Aires with his family for six months while he was starting his company’s fishing operations in Tierra del Fuego. By 1994 the company had grown to be one of the largest fishing companies in the world and Carl was Chairman of the Board. He retired from the fishing industry in 1994 and soon after, during a family trip, he happened to meet Pedro Arias. That chance meeting led to many further contacts and as they say “The rest is history”!

     In 1998 the four partners formed an Argentine Company called Estancia Buenaventura SRL. “Estancia” is a traditional Spanish word meaning a place “to stay” or “to stop”. In the old days in Argentina, travelers crossing the immense tracts of uninhabited land would arrive at widely scattered farms where they would be welcomed and given food and shelter. These stopping places came to be known as “estancias”. “Buenaventura” means “good fortune” in Spanish and “SRL” stands for “Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada” which is the equivalent of a limited liability company in the United States.

     The Company purchased an 8000 hectare (20,000 acre) piece of property in the Anta area of Salta in May of 1998. 8000 hectares comprise 80 square kilometers (30 square miles). The property had never been used before our purchase other than for selective logging. The partners made the decision to devote the entire Estancia to organic agriculture.

     Immediately after the Closing, we began the process of qualifying for organic status and, after a rigorous inspection by Argentine authorities and certifying agents, we received our organic certification.

     In 2004, after 6 years in organic agriculture, the Estancia suffered a severe attack by the Asiatic soybean leaf rust, a virulent fungus that originated in Japan and China.  The attack completely destroyed the field affected.  The partners met in emergency session to discuss their options. Their research revealed that once present at the farm the fungus could not be eradicated, only controlled. Regrettably there were no options except the use of fungicide which was of course prohibited in organic agriculture.  Since soybeans were and are the principal crop of the Estancia, the partners made the sad decision to withdraw the Estancia from organic agriculture and since 2005 we have conducted a conventional agricultural operation.

     As a footnote, the Asiatic soybean leaf rust fungus has now traveled to the southern U.S. and imperils the US production of organic soybeans as well.

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