Cacao has a long and colorful history beginning in Central and South America. At Mountain Rose Herbs, our fair trade organic cacao powder, nibs, and butter are sourced from an area known as the Cordillera Azul in Peru. There, cacao thrives in fields nourished by seven mighty rivers and abundant rainfall. No irrigation needed! We had the pleasure of traveling to this beautiful region to meet our hardworking farmers who nurture and harvest this beloved botanical.To get to the region where our cacao grows, we had to hop aboard a small propeller plane to the high Sierras, where we were greeted with sunshine and clean air. As we traveled up, down, and around the mountains, the vegetation changed from sparse cacti and succulents to infinite shades of lush greenery covering the steep terrain. It made us appreciate the farmers and their animals, who climb these steep mountainsides to work the fields and harvest the crops.
Meeting Our Farmers
Our experience was warm and welcoming. They treated us like family, with lots of gratitude expressed—not just for our financial support, but for our visit and attention, our interest in their lives, and our efforts to make improvements and expand our relationship.
Cacao is an important crop that provides the farmers a stable livelihood. Not long ago, coca was king in this part of the world. When we asked one of the farmers what life was like before he started producing cacao for the cooperative, tears came to his eyes. He spoke of the fear that he felt during coca's reign and how he is grateful for the opportunity to grow cacao for us because life is now “tranquilo.” He gets to focus on producing a healthy crop, receives a fair price for it, and he gets to work within his community. He is one of around 1,000 families who cultivate a total of 2,000 hectares of cacao in this region.
Seeing Fair Trade in Action
The family farm we visited had five varieties of cacao growing in the field, a rainbow of pods hanging from tree limbs–green, brown, red, and magenta. The families manage their individual land within the region. And then a farming cooperative offers professional staff who provides ongoing support in the field, responsibility for the fermentation and initial drying of the cacao (a two-week process), and the commercialization of the crop. The cooperative ensures the fresh harvest is transformed into a quality product that eventually becomes the nibs, powders, and butter that we enjoy. A visible line from our farms to your doorstep.
The cooperative is self-organized to provide support and information with its farmer members, gaining a greater voice in negotiations. By buying fair trade, we’re ensuring the farmer gets a higher price for the crops, and the premium is spent on capital investments in a new, larger, and centrally located fermentation facility.
Quality At Every Step
Visiting the farmers and processors of the cacao was illuminating—revealing the people and stories behind these enchanting products. The region is beautiful, remote, and unpolluted. The people are dedicated and hardworking, and the products are high quality. There are many steps that get the cacao from its trees in the Peruvian mountains to the raw or roasted cacao powders’ arrival at our warehouse, and visiting our farm and its processing facilities ensures we know what is happening along the way.
We have seen the farms, the processing facilities, and the warehouses; we have talked to the managers, workers, and farmers. As a result of these visits, we are confident in the quality and equity of our cacao’s supply chain. So enjoy that cup of hot chocolate, decadent gluten-free chocolate cookie, or DIY lip balm, knowing the care and attention that has gone into bringing that fair trade cacao to your door.
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