We buy cacao from roughly 500 cacao farm families and we voluntarily pay roughly ten times FairTrade premiums for cacao. Over the last 15 years, we've helped hundreds of cacao farm families improve their economic condition and that has been extremely rewarding.
Take a look at the photo. When I say that we've helped cacao farm families improve their economic condition, you may wonder what exactly that means.
One of the most common improvements has been paving floors in houses. So many cacao farms have dirt floors. We took this picture just before sitting down to eat lunch and the meal was fabulous. Doña Adriana, the wonderful hostess pictured above, is a tremendous cook.
You can see out the door onto her farm.On the other side of this room is another door with the same view.This family came and settled their land just a couple of generations ago.
Prior to that, the land was pure nature.
And there isn't a concrete mixing plant out there in the jungle. Adobe bricks can be fashioned for building a house, and there is some wood available, but concrete for paving floors is a whole different thing.
As a result, entire houses have dirt floors. The bedrooms have dirt floors. The kitchen has a dirt floor and so does the dining room. The bathroom is an outhouse, and in many cases there is no connection to public sewage.
That is another big use of the money from our project. Connecting a bathroom to the public sewage line or building a new bathroom connected to the main house. Think about having to make a bathroom run in the middle of the night on a cacao farm.
Getting concrete or plumbing work done is very costly when a house is so remotely located. The contractors who do that work want cash. You can't barter with them for coconuts, cacao, coffee, and mango. And the only way a cacao farm family can get their hands on cash is to sell crops.
The amount of money they get for their crops is the determining factor for their lifestyle. After plumbing and concrete work, the other big upgrades tend to be medical care and schooling for their kids and grandkids. Also, a lot of families buy motorcycles.
There are several things I love about eating lunch on a cacao farm. The ingredients are always fresh and the women who cook the meals have been preparing their recipes for decades. You are sitting in this very rural dining room eating a meal that is better than almost any restaurant meal you can find in the US.
I also find it very charming that there are always animals wandering through, just like in this photo. While you are eating, a farm dog or cat, or ducks, or a turkey, or a rabbit, will come traipsing through.
The last thing I will mention is the tablecloths. The hostesses always put together a very lovely table. It is common to see a vase of flowers on the table and nice place settings. It is a very unique experience and the hospitality is always so heart warming.
These fundamental improvements to a cacao farmer's quality of life is why buying chocolate from a direct trade company is a good thing to do. To my mind, the key structural issue is all of the middlemen, brokers, and distributors who have to take a mark up on a farmer's cacao.
They eat up all of the money that should be going to the farmers. By the way, this doesn't only apply to chocolate.
It applies to a whole host of imported goods and probably applies to a lot of farmers here in the United States as well. To the extent that you can buy from a company who eliminates players in the supply chain, you can get a good price for a great product and help farmers and other craftspeople improve their quality of life.
Yes, you hit the brokers and distributors in the pocketbook because they get cut out, but they mostly live in places where the floors are paved and the bathrooms are connected to plumbing.
The big sacrifice that customers have to make for this whole thing to work is a bit of time researching what they are purchasing, and the inconvenience of not buying everything in one place.
I have to admit, it is nice to pile things in a cart and check out all at once. But that approach does work its way back through the supply chain and perpetuate a cycle of poverty. I'm not trying to bum you out here, but convenience does have its costs.
At least for chocolate, you don't have to do any more research. There are no middle men in between you and the cacao farmers. We buy the cacao direct and make our products ourselves. The cacao farmers are our partners.
Our products are not available in any stores.
We don't work through any distributors.
You get a fair price and you can feel good about helping wonderful folks out in the Peruvian jungle live a better and easier life.
Anyhow, I am running out of steam a bit for now. I thank you for giving me a moment of your time.
I hope at you have a truly blessed day!