Hello and good day!
I was asked a couple weeks back if there are women cacao farmers out where we buy cacao.
The question struck me as peculiar.
The answer is of course yes, but where we buy cacao, the farms are worked by multiple generations of family members, male and female, all working together.
There are essentially no single sex farms.
The first picture above was taken during a meeting of the cacao growers' association of the district of Huarango.
At this meeting, we brought chocolate for our cacao farm partners to taste. There were roughly 700 people in attendance, half men and half women.
Enthusiasm for the chocolate, the community, and the local variety of cacao is not exclusive to either gender.
Some of the women were very effusive in their praise and others were more reserved.
Same with the men. Some are jokers. Some are more serious.
The second picture is of our company's namesake, Don Fortunato, and his wife Elena. Both are equally fierce with machetes.
Both have a work ethic so strong that they would grind most Americans into the dust after one long workday.
And both have equal knowledge when it comes to farming cacao.
Fortunato is a more beautiful name for a company, so we went with his name.
Philosophically though, we could have named our company after Elena.
They are 50/50 partners in their family farm.
I'd like to put a pin in that for a second.
My mom is a strong, strong woman.
When I was a kid, she opened up a theatre in the middle of downtown San Diego, which at that time was a horrendous skid row.
I remember being in her theatre one night while she was conducting rehearsals for an upcoming show.
We heard a commotion outside.
A homeless drug addict was trying to mug a guy.
The victim ducked into the theatre's lobby to escape the assault, but the attacker followed him in. We heard them yelling and in a flash my mom jumped off the stage and ran towards the lobby.
She got into an argument with the mugger who was waving a knife at her, and she backed him down.
He left empty handed. We called the cops. And then my mom went right back to rehearsing.
This is just one of at least twenty stories I could tell you about my mom's bravery in that neighborhood.
Maybe not uncoincidentally, I married a very strong woman. Nery runs a lot of our business operations behind the scenes. She is brilliant and when she gets her back up, you aren't getting the best of her.
Don't even try.
My father was raised by strong women. My dad's dad died when my father was just four years old. As a result, my dad was left in the care of my grandma and my great aunt.
After grandpa died, grandma was the sole owner of a chain of restaurants which she ran on her own.She ran them very well. She was a shrewd businesswoman, and she made an extremely healthy living.
My dad's auntie lived through the great depression and both world wars as an adult, outlived three husbands, lived by herself in her own home until age ninety-seven, founded a local chapter of the girl scouts which she ran for 50 years, and had about a thousand people at her funeral when she passed.
We have many super hardworking and capable women working for our company.
I've been thinking about the question above for a couple of weeks now.
Are there women cacao farmers? I said above that the question struck me as peculiar.
It wasn't just the mixed gender aspect of a cacao farm that caused complications in my thinking.
It was the tone of the question as well, as if farm work would be too rugged for a woman, or maybe women would be culturally confined to doing only housework.
Based on the women in my life, I know for certain that there are very few jobs a man can do that a woman can't.
Obviously, you can't deny physiology.
On average men are bigger and stronger than women, so if you are talking about jobs that require a lot of physical strength, a man might be a better choice.
However, even that line of thinking is suspect in my experience.
The times when heavy lifting is a defining factor are outliers.
And what about ethic?
You might have a real strong man who is lazy.
On the other hand, you might have a woman who isn't quite as strong physically, but who will give you a great effort all day, thereby far surpassing the strong man in productivity.
When it comes to soft skills, it's a wash.
You cannot use physical appearance, race, or gender as a heuristic for intelligence or managerial and leadership ability.
Your only choice is to judge on individual merits.
On cacao farms or in the US, you can't make an accurate decision about a person based on anything other than what you know about them from your experience in dealing with them, or information received from an unbiased reference who knows the person well.
What brought my thinking to a head is a book I read over the weekend.
It was a short and enjoyable read.
The book is Legacy by James Michener. There is a chapter in there dedicated to the women's suffrage movement.
I hadn't thought about this topic in a long time.
Women only got the right to vote in this country in 1920. For more than half of our country's history women couldn't vote.
That is outrageous.
Voting is purely an intellectual exercise. It has nothing to do with being big and strong.
The suffrage movement went on for something like 60 years before it finally prevailed.
Can you imagine?
Sixty years to pass a law about something that is completely self-evident, namely that men and women are exactly equal when it comes to mental aptitude.
I'm running out of space now, so I can't say all that I would want to say.
So please allow me to conclude with this.
The only rational way to behave is to judge the person in front of you based on their actions and the words that come out of their mouths.
It is lazy, detrimental, and totally inaccurate to think you can sum up a person based on their gender, ethnicity, or physical appearance.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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