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We Promised to Stay

We Promised to Stay

Hello and good day!

Sometimes a promise to be there through the years is the most powerful promise you can make.

You don't need to promise the world. You just need to promise to stay and endure. That is the most important promise my brother Brian made to the cacao farmers with whom we work.

Our concept was, and still is, to offer higher buying prices for cacao and offer to do all of the post harvest processing. Those are good offers. They have a real and immediate economic impact. But what if we offered higher prices and did the post harvest processing, only to go out of business or get tired of campo life just a couple of years after getting started.

That was the reputation that foreigners had out in campo.

Most of the folks out there had never seen a foreigner with their own eyes. There is really no reason for somebody from another country to be out there. We ended up out there mostly as a result of unplanned happenstance.

Once out there, we became enamored with an opportunity. But the way we ended up out there was one twist of fate after another. The only exposure that folks out in the district of Huarango, in northern Peru, had to foreigners was church missionaries, non-profit types, peace corps volunteers, and wannabe social workers.

Those kinds of people tend to come and go. They serve their time and then head out.

So yes, the idea of higher prices and centralized processing sounded good. But not if we were going to leave in a couple of years. We were asking folks to consider planting only pure Nacional cacao and giving up industrial hybrids.

It takes two to three years for a cacao tree to become productive.

What if the farmers were to plant all these trees just to have us disappear before the trees came on line? The farmers knew that there was a never ending market for commodity cacao. They didn't make much, but they knew the market wasn't going away.

Why should they trust this gringo, Gringo Brian, who showed up out of nowhere and was selling dreams?

That is a fine question!

Why indeed?

I don't even have a good answer. Brian is a great guy, but he is not overly charismatic or anything like that. Because of our childhoods, both Brian and I are very adept at blending into our environments.

We can both be total oddballs in appearance, but somehow seem to belong where common sense says we shouldn't. But the real thing that endeared Brian to our partners was simply that he kept doing what he said he'd do, over and over again, without fail, for a long time.

At some point, when you simply keep showing up and doing the work, just as you said you would, you become undeniable.

Nothing special. No magic bullet.

Brian said he'd build a facility out in campo and he did. Brian said our company wasn't going anywhere and a decade and a half later, here we are. And we're still just at the beginning of our journey. Brian said we'd pay super high prices for cacao, we still do.

In the beginning, just a couple dozen out of thousands of farms decided to take a leap of faith and go with us.

Today we are buying pure Nacional cacao from more than 500 cacao farm families and that number increases every year.

Day in and day out, farm families saw our team out on those muddy roads, operating professionally, buying cacao, employing folks born and raised in campo. When you keep seeing that day after day, year after year, eventually you can't help but ask yourself why you should keep holding out.

Gringo Brian pays higher prices.

His company frees up time to work on other crops.

And they aren't going anywhere.

Eventually, it just doesn't make sense to persist in the old ways.Words could never have made it happen though. Only consistent action over time and a promise to stay made it all possible.

By the way, almost everything is like that as far as I can tell. Plodding, boring, consistent day in and day out work, is what makes really cool things happen.

Breaking open cacao pods and scraping seeds into buckets isn't the most inspiring work in the world.

Sticking your head into a hot, wooden, fermenter box to stir vinegary, acidic cacao that stings your eyes and nostrils, ain't glamourous. Our team does that with dozens of cacao boxes per day, every day, during the 8 month long cacao harvest.

It takes half a dozen people the entire afternoon.

But if we don't do it, the chocolate won't taste good. So there you have it. It must be done the same way, over and over again.

Anyhow, I am running out of steam a bit for now. Thank you so much for your time.

I hope at you have a truly blessed day!


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