The beginning of Isla Natura
Curiously, Isla Natura began nearly 15 years before actually founding the business, in 1997.
Everything began during the time we cruised the ocean around Chiloé's Archipelago, and the inhospitable fjords of the Continent, looking for adventure and a sustainable life away from conventional standards and expectations. We would stop in every inlet where fishermen lived, where the closest electrical line was over 30 miles away, and the best conversation was lit by candlelight. Stories, anecdotes, and the shared feeling of love for nature abounded. Everything felt like it was from a forgotten time, and you could go days without seeing a car, as people moved in boat or on horseback.
We built a boat on the coast of Chiloé, helped by local carpenters and boatbuilders with vast knowledge of the wood that the forests here have to offer. Cahuella, as we christened her, permitted us to guide and show tourists a sliver of the area's ocean. Of course we also lived the other side of the coin - the maritime world of Patagonia, marked by the abrupt weather changes that brought fierce storms and giant, fear-inducing waves. But what's important is that after the storm, the sun always comes out.
My love and respect for the forests of southern Chile grew more & more during the years I spent guiding tourists around the area. I also learned a lot about the local people, their customs, mythology, and their knowledge of the flora around them. My reading, for a long time, was exclusively books about the history, culture, or wildlife from the first contact between the Europeans and the Mapuches and Hulliches. I loved comparing what I learned with what the people I met had to teach me, in the most hidden corners of the South; the uses they gave different herbs and plants vs. what uses were given in colonial times.
At home, my wife began to use the gifts our wonderful environment gave us in our family's cooking. We would go out and harvest wild Murta with our daughters and make desserts, use wild herbs in teas, and try other berries such as Calafate, Maqui, Chaura, and Cauchao. We toasted hazelnuts on our wood stove, all gathered around its warmth. Every winter we planted dozens of trees outside our house, learning to propagate the plants that we already found in our garden.
Everything happens in its due moment, and when tourism fell in 2009-10 due to the global economic crisis, halting out maritime trips, we decided it was time to put in motion the ideas that had been in our heads a long time. We saw that Chile has an immense native biodiversity, with properties, yet the biggest production is of blueberries and kiwis.
So, we turned to Chiloé, its people, this simple lives with small farms and restricted economy, and formulated an idea of a positive lifestyle based on how Chilotes live. This would also contribute towards extra income for these wonderful families, helping their economy. The idea was to generate the production of a fruit that was only eaten by local fauna or which was used in fertilizing the earth; we wanted to save these powerful berries as well as contribute to the environment by picking them wild and not using chemical fertilizers. Only then could we think of propagating the plants through natural means. Creating products that keep the powers of nature intact, and generating a change in lifestyle for people.
What better for the Chilean, than to be able to buy a delicious and healthy product made in Chile, sprung up from their soil, and replacing interest in Acaí or Gogi fruit such as Maqui, Murta, or Calafate?