Today was an absolutely fantastic day! It was our second day out in the field and this time we went with Emiterio to the village of San Jose, one of our largest areas for sourcing cacao and one of the most remote. The whole village is set far back from the main highway and this embraced isolation is reflected in their dedication to traditional farming. Our first farm of the day had around 1,500 trees (two sections of 800 and 700, respectfully). Pruning was well underway and the farmer, Jacob, was proud to show us his farm. Jacob, a true business man by nature, was lively, happy, and encouraging. It was wonderful to hear how pleased he’s been with the work of Maya Mountain Cacao. He’s happy with the dedication to farmers he’s seen from MMC: their presence on farms and their interest in helping farmers improve their techniques, expand their farms and increase their production. He thinks the bottom line is everyone needs to improve and everyone needs to benefit, especially the farmers. Market prices need to rise and Jacob recognizes that MMC is determined to bring higher prices to farmers for their quality organic cacao (60% of the purchase price customers pay to MMC for their cacao goes directly to the farmer).
From Jacob’s, we visited a nearby farm with a drastically different landscape. This farm was greatly shaded, as a cacao farm should be. Jacob had a collection of older trees, about 30 years old, which need more sun than younger trees. Around his younger trees he’s working on planting more shade like mahogany and fruit trees.
From farm to farm we went. One farmer had built a community cacao nursery with 13 other farmers, including two women. The nursery contained 5,000 seedlings and each farmer cares for their own section. The farmer explained how pleased he’s been with the success of the nursery, thus far, and how dutiful the other farmers have been at doing their part and taking care of their seedlings. He was even running experiments on spacing of the seedlings for maximum airflow to increase productivity and growth.
Another fantastic part of the day was listening to farmers discuss just how appreciative they are of Emiterio, MMC’s leading field officer, who is responsible for all of the farmers we work with in San Jose, our largest village. Hardworking and dedicated, Emiterio visits all of his farmers regularly and it’s apparent how much they appreciate his and MMC’s commitment to their success.
From the nursery, we visited one more farmer, met his adorable children, picked coffee cherries from his infamous coffee tree, and were gifted bananas picked straight from his yard. Lunch was a real treat, prepared by a lovely Mayan woman, a wife of a farmer, who graciously welcomed us into her home. She prepared a chicken stew with fresh corn tortillas. Let’s just say, I saw the same chicken alive only an hour before lunch. It was delicious.
Our last stop of the day was to the home of the MMC farmer who last year won the title of being the most productive farmer of the 202 affiliated. It was great to meet such a talented cacao farmer but the best part was actually meeting his grandson, Mark. Mark is a recent high school graduate who, when he is not working on his grandfather’s farm, is helping to prune neighboring farms, and also occupying his time by making organic compost. Realizing he had many of the materials he needed for composting, he invested in creating almost 700 lbs of organic compost to sell to local farmers. If was fascinating to listen to Mark talk about how important he thinks cacao farming is and can be for his community, especially the youth. He, too, expressed gratitude for the good work of MMC and explained how he sees farming cacao as an investment and a huge job opportunity especially for young people fresh out of school with little prospects and a high unemployment rate. He thinks young people in his community need to get up, get involved, and invest in their future. He seems ready and willing to be the leader of the youth in his community’s cacao industry and I’m excited to see all that he’ll do! With his composting initiative, his leadership drive, and his farming dedication, sounds like an entrepreneur to me! Look out, VilCap!