Hello and good day!
As I never tire of mentioning, most of what it takes to bring chocolate into the world is gritty, blue-collar work. We just got word from our operations manager in campo, Oscar Ayala, that he has come down with a case of Dengue fever.
I've never written about it before, but Dengue is a serious health risk for folks who live out in the jungle. It is a virus that is transmitted through mosquito bites. And the mosquitos are ruthless out in campo.
Because of the extreme heat, everybody wears clothes that expose their skin, and the mosquitoes absolutely tear people up. Oscar and most of the other people on our team, including my brother Brian, have all suffered through bouts of Dengue on multiple occasions.
It is part of life out where we operate. There are a couple different varieties of Dengue. The one that most people get, the milder variant, lays you up with something like a severe flu. It is rarely fatal, but it is very uncomfortable. The stronger variant causes hemorrhaging and is a killer.
Oscar is recovering, but slowly. Thinking about mosquitos got me to thinking about all the animal life and creepy crawlies you see out in campo. We have a nice photo collection of cool bugs and animals we've seen over the years.
I thought it might be cool to put together a little slideshow for you. First off, take a look at this video. https://youtu.be/vz4keCPXxS0
This is just one box in room filled up with about 40 fermentation boxes. Bees love fresh cacao mucilage, and they swarm to it. During the harvest, our wonderful, hardworking team works in a room filled with bees.
And yes, they sting us. They sting us a lot. Being stung by bees is part of the chocolate making process. Not many people know that.
Here is a stray dog that came to live at our very first processing facility. Those wooden boxes are some of the very first cacao fermentation boxes we ever built. They weren't in service yet in this photo.
This is back before we even had our own facility, and we were borrowing a small corner of land from the local government germplasm bank. Those little dryer beds were our first ever prototypes for drying cacao. That pig lived on the property and came around from time to time.
My brother Brian is a cat lover and always had cats living in his office. Here is a mama cat with her kittens. Cats are a very practical animal to have out in campo. They keep mice and rats from coming around.
Here are some big cacao eating ants. It is very important for farmers to do frequent maintenance on their trees. An infestation like this needs to be eradicated immediately before it gets out of control.
Lots of beautiful butterflies out in campo.
A tiny lizard scurrying across the office floor.
A giant, freaky moth on our office wall one day.
A big old beetle rooting around in the backseat of one of our cacao pick up vehicles.
Another one of Brian's office cats.
A big old spider cruising around the office wall.
A lot of bathrooms in campo have frog infestations.
When you need to make a late-night bathroom run, they are there waiting, ready to scare the bejeezus out of you.
An insane, humongous jungle fly that feasts on rotting cacao pods. This is why it isn't good to leave rotting cacao pods on a tree. They need to be cut down, so you don't get a pestilence of these terrifying flies.
A guinea pig breeding pen. Everybody eats guinea pig out in campo. Looks like a farm kitten jumped in there to play around as well.
Sometimes when our team is out on cacao pickups, they chip in and help our farm partners with chores., This is our supervisor of post-harvest processing, Melko. Melko is a big part of the reason why our chocolate tastes really good year in and year out. He has been with our company since the very beginning, starting about 15 years ago.
Our field manager Oscar with a stick bug on his shoulder.
Bright orange insects that love rotten cacao. Another reason to be proactive in removing rotten cacao from trees.
A long-haired poisonous caterpillar that will give you a terrible, terrible rash if you so much as lightly brush up against it.
A bunch of folks in a small town playing with pigletsAn extremely common sight.
Thank you so much for your time today.
When you enjoy a beautiful piece of chocolate, always remember that it comes from nature.
And nature is fascinating and diverse, teeming with life.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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