hello and good day!
Take a look at the photo attached This is the farm of Don Regulo Vargas. I've written about him a few times in the past.He is such a good man and has one of the most beautiful cacao farms you'll ever see.
What was so striking to us about his farm was that he had kept it clear of all industrial hybrids before there was any real incentive to do so.He planted out the heirloom variety of cacao that grows native to the zone because of pride.
Pride in his land.
Pride in his community.
Many other farms in the area were pulling up native trees and switching to higher volume hybrids to make more money. It is hard to have moral qualms with that. When you are living at a subsistence level and receiving rock bottom prices for your cacao, volume is the only way out.
But Don Regulo was operating under the exact same economic conditions, yet he made a different choice.He is a man who marches to the beat of his own drum.
When we did genetic testing on cacao in the canyon and found that the cacao growing naturally there was a special variety, Don Regulo came off looking like a genius.
We owe a lot to Don Regulo.
He was a respected member of the cacao growing community, known for his integrity and work ethic. Don Regulo participated in our very first cacao harvest and his participation gave a lot of credibility to what we were trying to do.
We still buy from the Vargas farm to this very day.
This photo shows you what a cacao harvest looks like in real life. This is not unique to our project. All chocolate you will ever eat more or less starts out in this way.
However, I have to point out that the loveliness, orderliness, and cleanliness of this farm is unique to Don Regulo. Basically, you've got the whole family sitting around hacking open cacao pods and scraping out the seeds. This goes on for many hours. Just hacking and scraping.
The little girl in pink standing next to Don Regulo, and the boy in blue leaning up against the tree, are Don Regulo's grandchildren. The young man in the yellow shorts is Don Regulo's son.
There is a dog laying on the ground, cut in half off to the left too. That is the family dog. Don Regulo has several children and grandchildren living on the farm with him. He has two daughters and two sons and half a dozen grandchildren.
My brother Brian is in the grey shirt and Melko, the man who has supervised our cacao processing facility for 14 years, is in orange.
The Vargas family is a particularly wonderful and warm family. Their farm is immaculate and everything about them is pleasant.
The grandkids are polite and well raised. They go to school and get good grades. The adult kids are married and responsible and hard working. You couldn't ask for a better family.
Some of the farms we visit aren't like that.
There is pure Nacional cacao growing there and we buy it. But on some farms, the place is a mess. The trees aren't pruned. A man is asleep, drunk on the floor next to a cacao tree and his wife is doing all the work and handling the business. The kids aren't as lovely or polite as the Vargas kids.
Instead of coming over and saying hi to the team, they sit on their porch and stare seriously. People are people. They are the same everywhere. Some are doing great. Some are struggling.
This is one of the very enlightening lessons you get from doing business in another country. Religion and culture may be different. The terrain, and cuisine, and lifestyle may seem foreign. But if you stick around long enough and observe, you will find that at a fundamental level, people are very much the same no matter where you go.
And to me, that is a refreshing thought.
It means that one way or another, people can relate to each other. And if we can relate to one another, we should be able to get along and work together. If you are a parent, you can empathize with a parent anywhere.
When I was growing up, I used to sneak out of the house to go hang out with friends after my dad was asleep. I waited until it was late and I climbed out of my window. I remember one of my friends getting busted by his parents for joining me one night and it ended up being a big, dramatic, fiasco. My buddy had his car taken away and his parents told him they didn't trust him anymore.
Flash forward several years and I was meeting with a cacao farmer who looked downtrodden. I asked him what was wrong and he described almost the exact same scenario. His teenage son was out of control.
The son kept sneaking out at night to see his girlfriend even though his parents had prohibited him from doing so. The girl's parents were calling the son a bad influence and the boy's parents thought it was the girl who was a bad influence.
It was a whole mess and this father seemed very concerned. He was worried about his son's future. This stuff goes on everywhere. And I can't even begin to count the times we've overheard a cacao farm husband and wife bickering over one thing or another.
You show up and you hear arguing from the road, but when you get closer, the couple tamps things down for appearance sake, but you can still feel the tension in the air. Sometimes, the argument rekindles right there on the farm while our team is buying cacao.
Married couples always bicker a little bit, especially when the years start to add up. No way around it and it doesn't matter where you are in the world. Appearance, skin color, ethnicity, and geography don't change human beings at a fundamental level.
Ideology can have a big impact. For example if you are born into a particularly oppressive society or religion, you can have your natural inclinations brainwashed out of you, but that is rare. The natural state of affairs is for almost everybody to have very similar desires and modes of operating at a core level.
Anyhow, I'm not quite sure how to wrap this up, but I am running out of steam. So I thank you for your time and I hope that you will never let appearance or differences in culture keep you from getting to know somebody.
I hope at you have a truly blessed day!
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