I just got back from a weeklong visit to the Dominican Republic, where a group of us--a mix of Equal Exchange staff, food co-op managers, and Interfaith liaisons--visited cacao-growing communities that belong to CONACADO Co-op, an umbrella organization of about 10,000 cacao farmers.
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By Carly Kadlec, Equal Exchange Coffee Purchaser
Over the past several weeks I have been in Central America, visiting our producer partner groups. At every stop along the way, I get gems of knowledge dropped on me at totally unexpected moments. Sometimes this is as straight forward as a farmer explaining a new organic practice that I have never seen before. However, more often than not, producers shatter my worldview with their incredibly refined and pointed observations of the world in which we live.
With the holidays approaching, I always get questions about how to avoid packing on the pounds when our offices, homes, parties and stores are full of tempting, delectable treats. I, for one, am a huge sucker for my grandma’s fresh-baked rolls and chocolate chip cookies made with our new Equal Exchange chocolate chips.
“Like Equal Exchange, we want to improve the lives of our small farmer members,” said Hildebrando Cárdenas Salazar, general manager of Oro Verde. The co-op was founded in 1999 with 56 members, and now there are 1,200 members. “Farmers realize the benefits of being part of the co-op,” Hildebrando said. “There are advantages that intermediaries can’t provide, especially around technical assistance.”
Last week, we hosted two managers from cacao co-ops we work with in Peru to source chocolate for our new Organic Chocolate Chips and for our line of Organic Candy Bars. Hildebrando Cárdenas Salazar from Oro Verde co-op and David Contreras from ACOPAGRO co-op visited our headquarters in Massachusetts to learn more about Equal Exchange, meet some of our store accounts, and work on 2014 planning for our USAID grant project with the two co-ops.