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The Great Rice Hull Mountain Fire

The Great Rice Hull Mountain Fire

Hello and good day!

Sometimes you can talk and think about something so much that it almost becomes a caricature of itself in your mind. I fear that this happens to me sometimes because I talk and write about our chocolate business so much.

However, a photo like the one above is a good reminder that I am not exaggerating when I talk about what a crazy adventure our chocolate business has been.

This is a picture that was taken in 2010 of our second cacao processing facility. The first facility was in an abandoned parking lot in the city of Jaen.

\We only got to do one harvest season in this facility because the rice husk mountain behind our facility caught fire, as you can see above.

To give you a lay of the land. This is the tiny town of Puerto Ciruelo. The river in the photo is the Chinchipe River. in this picture, the water level is low.When the river is high from rain, you can't see the beach to the upper left at all.

If you follow the river to the right in this photo, you'll get to Ecuador in a little over an hour. Follow the river left and you will eventually get to a road that takes you into Jaen.

In the 1960s, the Peruvian government funded the construction of rice mills in remote agricultural areas. Too many were built, and many ended up abandoned.

Back behind this facility there was a huge rice husk mountain, as you can see. To call it huge is an understatement. Look how big it is relative to the town.

At the end of 2009, my brother moved into Puerto Ciruelo and we rented this rice husk mill. It had been abandoned for a long time, and like anything abandoned out in campo, it was overrun by animals and creepy crawlies, and was in awful disrepair.

Using my dad's life savings, my brother refurbished the mill and put it back into service for us to do our first full cacao harvest in 2010. As you can imagine, refurbishing this old mill was a lot of work and it was expensive.

As an aside, there wasn't a bridge over the river until 2017 and for 8 harvest seasons, we floated cacao across the Chinchipe. The road on the right side of the river that curves back around the mountain is the road we use to ship cacao out of campo to this very day.

Anyhow, after having a successful harvest season in 2010, my bro took a much-deserved vacation with his family to the United States. When he came back, he found that the rice husk mountain had caught fire and ash was blowing into our facility.

Everything was covered in ash and there was no way to extinguish the smoldering mountain.

It was too big and too hot. The surface of the mountain was 600 degrees!

A bunch of dogs died on the mountain. They'd always been able to climb up it. But when it started smoldering, they didn't realize how hot it was and they died immediately when they stepped on the ash.

Inside the facility, our team had to cover their faces with masks because breathing in the ash was lethal.This all happened in October and the new harvest was going to start in January.

The team and Brian had to cover their faces while they moved everything salvageable out of this facility and into a new abandoned rice mill up the street.

It took a heroic effort to get the new rice mill ready before the next harvest started, but they pulled it off. For the next year or so, local women came into our abandoned facility to carry away rice ash. It made an excellent detergent for heavy scrubbing.

Thankfully, we were able to stay in the next facility for a good long time and it didn't have a husk mountain behind it.

One last thing, if you head left in this photo, you will drive up hill and back into a big canyon and that is where all the cacao we use in our chocolate grows.

There is an intricate labyrinth of dirt roads that will take you back to roughly 80 villages and thousands of farms.

In conclusion, my brother Brian is a stud.

Rice husk mountains are very dangerous when they catch fire.

And most of the world's cacao grows in places like this and it is a good thing to have gratitude when eating chocolate and most other good food because it comes from far away and requires a lot of hard work to bring into the world.

Thank you so much for your time today! I hope that you have a truly blessed day!