McDonough School of Business
News Story

MBA Students Travel To Peruvian Jungle To Consult For Organic Produce Distributor


About The Consulting Project

La Grama is an organic produce distributor that works with smallholder farmers in Peru to implement organic farming techniques and to bring the products, primarily ginger and avocado, to international markets in Europe and the United States. Students focused on analyzing a bottleneck in the expansion of their operations. Agronomists, who play a crucial role in La Grama’s business model, ensure that farmers meet various standards, helping them improve the quality of their crops and to maintain relationships so that the farmers sell to La Grama.

About The Choice Of The Country And Industry

Beth Ann: I have always been interested in agriculture and food security. My grandfather owned a dairy farm in Indiana, and my father works in food sales and marketing. In my current work for an international development non-profit, we promote agriculture development in nearly a hundred countries around the world.

Ryan: In high school, I traveled to Peru every summer with my church. Those trips are what sparked my passion for the developing world and set me on a path to pursue my career in international development. Ten years later, I was excited to return to Peru and work on a project that incorporated social enterprise.

Ali: The subject of organic produce for international markets aligns with my career goals, and the company is located in a part of the world I had yet to explore. The logistics and supply chains of the global food system are increasingly complex, which is something that I have learned from my day job of disaster relief logistics.

How Traveling To The Farms Contributed To The Project Deliverable

While in Peru, we were the only group to visit a client site outside of Lima. This was a fantastic opportunity as the site visit provided us with a more nuanced understanding of the business and its challenges. Seeing client operations first hand improved our final product by enabling us to validate or modify our recommendations based on our direct communications with farmers and agronomists.

We visited two ginger farms and saw firsthand the importance of the agronomist-farmer relationship. Only half of our McDonough team spoke conversational Spanish. After seeing the body language of the farmers and engaging with them, despite the language barrier, it became clear how optimization was not a realistic option. Instead, we learned how to integrate the relationship-driven culture into our final recommendations in more meaningful ways.

On The Course’s Impact On Their View Of Global Business

Ali: Although our time in Peru was limited, we explored the country’s historic and cultural landmarks, ate local cuisine, talked to locals, and learned a few new words and phrases in Spanish. Having studied Mandarin in college, picking up my high school Spanish was a bit rough, but I did learn how to say haircut (corte de pelo) to experience a local hair salon per the recommendation of one of our clients. While much of global business is conducted in English, knowing a few phrases in the native tongue shows that you care and are invested in the business relationships.

Katie: After working at a global communications firm for the past five years, I assumed I was global-ready to some extent. However, working with La Grama and traveling to Peru gave me a whole new understanding of the impact of culture on business interactions and relationships. There is a vast difference between conducting conference calls with colleagues or clients on different continents and actually engaging with a culture in a meaningful way. There is no replacement for the complete inmersion in a culture that Georgetown McDonough and this course was able to provide to us. Particularly with La Grama, as we traveled ot the farms and met agronomists and farmers firsthand, we had the opportunity to really walk on their shoes for a day.

Global Business Initiative