Hello and good day!
The gentleman in the picture is Noe Vasquez. He is our longtime friend and business partner. I've written about him in the past, quite a few times.
The fellow behind Noe is his brother Juan. Juan worked in our cacao processing facility for many years before deciding to start his own business.
In this photo, Noe is working on a grafted tree for our clone nursery. The nursery is housed on Noe's farm and has helped hundreds of cacao farmers join our project. It has also contributed greatly to stopping the spread of industrial hybrid cacao trees in the canyon where we buy cacao.
There was a strong trend towards pulling up native, heirloom cacao trees, and replacing them with high yield, disease resistant hybrids. The benefit of the high yield trees is of course the high yield. When you are being paid rock bottom prices for your crop, the only play is volume.
However, the hybrid trees are unnaturally productive, and they deplete nutrients from the soil at an unsustainable rate. Eventually, after several years, chemical fertilizers must be brought in, and this adds an additional cost which nullifies the benefits of the high yield. When you take that into consideration in addition to the detrimental long-term effects on the soil, it is easy to see that you are robbing Peter to pay Paul.
You are sacrificing the long term to the short term. But when the situation is dire and you need money fast to buy medicine and school supplies, you do what you think you have to.
Thanks to Noe, we've been able to propagate out a variety of cacao that makes delicious chocolate. In turn, the prices we can pay for cacao are much higher than before and this has had a cascading effect.
Noe is a cacao savant. He is a genius at cacao. He is the one who convinced us to do business in the district of Huarango. Also, he is the one who picked out what we call the "mother tree" on the farm of Don Fortunato Colala.
Don Fortunato is the person our company is named after.
Many years ago, the USDA agreed to do genetic testing on cacao throughout the region where we planned to operate.
My brother Brian and Noe had already become friends. When Noe heard about the genetic testing program, he insisted that we test one particular tree. To put that in perspective, there are probably 50,000 cacao trees or more in the district of Huarango.
Noe grew up in Huarango and has spent his entire life around cacao. He has seen innumerable trees. And yet, there was one tree that he was adamant about testing. He was sure it was a special tree.
It wasn't something that he could explain well. It was more of a feeling. The fruit was perfectly shaped. The angles of the branches were just as they should be. It was a beautiful specimen in his eyes.
Long story short, that one tree was a perfect genetic match to a thought to be extinct variety of cacao. We've tested hundreds of trees over the years. All are considered "pure" meaning that they are a 98% genetic match or higher.
But the mother tree is a 99.99% match. Noe knew that tree was special, somehow. Isn't it nice to be really good at something?
We just had a soft serve ice cream machine delivered yesterday. We're going to start offering soft serve in our retail stores within the next couple of weeks. There is a company we like who offers a vegan soft serve mix.
Around here in the Seattle area, a lot of people want dairy free options. We try to oblige when we can, but only if we believe in the ingredient. In this case, the company who makes the mix is a good company that we know well.
We buy their vegan marshmallows too. We'll be using our products as toppings for the soft serve. And we'll be attempting to build on the base mix to create our own ice cream flavors. We made our first batch of soft serve yesterday.
It came out good, but it was too sweet. Nobody here at the company likes our products to be too sweet. You can't taste the ingredients when sweetness blows out your palate. We strive for balance.
Our wonderful chocolatier Javier is out of town on a much-deserved vacation right now. But we excitedly sent him a message letting him know that the machine had showed up. He sent back a text expressing excitement and giving us instructions for how he planned to modify the mix to make it less sweet and more delicious.
He also sent us recipes for flavors we plan to make that he has already worked out. He did all this without having the machine. It was all worked out in his head.He just knows what to do.
You may already know this, but none of our products can be credited to my dad, my brother, and I. Javier and the production team create all of them. We know how to buy cacao and have chocolate made. The base chocolates are what we know how to do.
Everything else is the creation of Javier. He knows how to work with food. It is very interesting and extraordinary to watch.
My brother Brian knew how to build a cacao processing facility out of an old rice mill. My dad knows how to spot a business opportunity 20 years before it will pan out.
Some people can sing. My oldest son is really good at music. My middle son is a natural comedian, and he loves to curate items that remind him of special moments. My wife is excellent at artistic design.
Everybody appears to be born with something they can be great at.
One of life's most joyful moments is stumbling across your thing. So is watching somebody do the thing they are great at. I'd imagine that not being able to find your thing or feeling like you don't have a thing would torment a person.
Probably one of the best things you can do for a youngster or somebody who is going through a hard time is help them find their thing.
Luckily for us, we get to piggyback on Noe and Javier. As a result, we are able to bring some very delicious creations into the world. And those creations do a lot of good for our cacao farm partners.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!