You know that bumper sticker “No Farms, No Food”? Well, the same goes for cacao. We simply wouldn’t have chocolate if it weren’t for farmers, so we can’t talk about chocolate without shining a light on a few of the equatorial operations behind your favorite bars.
Location: Sambirano Valley, Madagascar
Farmer: Bertil Åkesson
In addition to cacao, Akesson’s farms banana trees, coffee, ylang-ylang, peppercorns, vanilla, and vetiver. They’ve been working their 2,300-hectare estate since 1920.
Location: Zamora, Ecuador
Farmer: Monica Guaman
It takes a plane, car, and boat to get to Zamora, where indigenous farmers grow cacao, coffee, and plantains deep in the Amazon rainforest. One 70-year-old farmer named Lenore farms the rare criollo varietal that’s been in the region for centuries.
Location: Tamil Nadu, India
Farmer: Harish Manoj, Karthi Palaniswamy
This cacao, coconut, and nutmeg estate is run by two brothers-in-law, who also sell their own bars locally. They use drip irrigation to conserve water, and keep a small herd of cows for weeding and manure compost.
Location: Mbingu, Tanzania
Kokoa Kamili oversees fermentation and drying for farmers, helping them improve quality to get higher prices, and delivers seedlings back to the farms to increase future harvests.
Location: Toledo, Belize
Maya Mountain ferments and dries beans from the certified organic farms of Mopan Maya and Q’eqchi’ farmers and provides them with equipment and training loans.
Location: Duran, Ecuador
Formerly a cacao farmer, owner Vicente Norero now processes beans and consults farmers. He has a reputation for precision, working like a winemaker to control ferment and isolate regional flavors.