We partner directly with cacao farmer cooperatives around the globe to create high quality, whole, peeled cacao seeds in their local communities with a goal of doubling their income from the cacao they’re already growing.
Why they’re Exceptional: Indonesia is the #4 cacao growing region in the world (behind Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Ecuador), but it is not known for fine flavor, high quality cacao [yet]. We strongly believe Koptan Masagena is a model of what Indonesian cacao is capable of. Here’s why:
- Their 2,300+ cooperative members actively manage and invest in their farms (and the quality shows).
- Their farmers maintain certification and on-going training with Rainforest Alliance to maintain biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods.
- Their genetics, fermentations and careful sun drying yield a bright, fruity flavor often associated with better-known origins like Madagascar.
- Women are well represented and active in their cooperative management structure.
- They’re an enterprising group that has ventured into making their own chocolate confections, drinks and products for sale locally and nationally.
- They are the model of hospitality - hosting countless visitors from chocolate producing nations and often other grower groups from around the world for knowledge exchange!
- They were our first grower partner - they have willingly pushed through every experiment, obstacle and growing pain together.
Why they’re Exceptional: Coagricsal began as a coffee cooperative and is now one of the largest exporters of organic, fair trade coffee in Latin America. They encouraged their members to plant cacao as a way to diversify income / reduce volatility. Their deep experience in growing and post-harvesting coffee has translated into remarkably well-grown and fermented cacao.
- They are community-minded. I was shocked that such a large coffee exporter would ever invest in a relationship with a small company like ours. BUT - they too were looking for ways to provide meaningful and safe work for more women in their community!
- Their farmers maintain certification and on-going training with Organic Certification and Fairtrade International to tackle poverty and empower producers and traders to seek better terms of trade.
- Their genetics, centralized and carefully managed fermentation and drying techniques yield an incredibly smooth and easy chocolate flavor that tastes far less “intense” than typical 80% cacao content chocolate bars. Look for flavor notes of banana, nuts and even coffee in their cacao beans.
- Their organic cacao beans are the source of our Harmony flavor - a 2018 Good Food Award Winner for the confections category!
- They’re another very entrepreneurial group - with several women in the community who hand-make bon bons and other chocolate treats. PLUS, they opened their own chocolate bar factory in February 2019!
We source our nuts from family farmer / processors who create ready-to-eat nuts in their own growing communities. Until we tried to source nuts directly for our trail mixes, we had no idea how many steps are typically involved! Did you know that your raw, shelled nut typically passes through four entities (harvester, huller, sheller/cracker and packager) between farm-to-bag? We’re so thankful that our suppliers manage all of these steps to ensure you get the highest quality product imaginable.
ORGANIC ALMONDS, USA
Maisie Jane's, Chico, California, United States
USDA Organic Certified Roasted Almonds
Why they’re Exceptional: Maisie is a fearless and entrepreneurial force to be reckoned with. Though her family has been growing almonds in Chico, California for four generations, she distinctly remembers her father’s, uncles’ and grandfather’s frustration that they could not get fresh, good quality almonds in their local grocery store [because processing was done elsewhere]. This, along with Maisie’s mom’s fresh-roasted almonds with tamari as a healthy snack growing up, inspired Maisie’s business. At age 17, she sold her FFA flock of sheep to purchase 2,000 pounds of almonds and began experimenting making nut butters and roasted / flavored nuts in her home kitchen! 25 years later, her nuts and nut butters are distributed nationwide.
As a fourth generation almond farmer, Maisie and her team are intimately familiar with every aspect of almond growing and processing. Growing up, she held her own as the first granddaughter (after all sons in her dad’s generation), working every harvest - including driving the sweeper and changing the shaker pads!
With nearly double the rainfall and slightly lower temperatures than California’s central valley (where the majority of US almonds are grown), the almonds in Chico receive a little more “chill” time that yields a sweeter and more flavorful nut. You can taste the difference!
A three-fold commitment to organic and sustainable farming:
- USDA certified organic farming and nut processing.
- Water-Wise practices (water monitoring probes, micro-irrigation using underground drip lines and soil mapping for planting) use 22% less water than traditional farming approaches.
- Bee friendly orchard and land management.
Personally and professionally, Maisie and her team are committed to offering the best tasting nut products using the healthiest and most natural ingredients and processes possible. All of their nuts are dry roasted (not fried) and steam pasteurized (never fumigated).
Why they’re Exceptional: It’s quite possible that you’ll never meet a family so humble, hospitable and relentlessly committed to producing a flawless product for their customers. From the very moment we walked onto their property, we were treated like family. It’s a joy and privilege to see three generations living & thriving together. The Bertagna family has been a pioneer in growing almonds and walnuts in Butte County, California for five generations. They continue to pioneer today with Red Walnuts. Also known as the Livermore Walnut, they were cultivated without genetic modifications by Robert Livermore in 1991, and showcased through UC Davis. Nick (pictured center) and the family immediately recognized the appeal for this new variety and were among the first in California to plant acreage.
If the Bertagna’s wanted something easy, they’d stick with Chandler walnuts (the most common brown variety). Red Walnuts are challenging! Lower yields, smaller nuts, fruit that is more temperamental and sensitive to heat, plus an extremely short harvest window - there’s nothing easy about them. But, like other notoriously difficult crops (Pinot Noir in wine, for example), there is a reward…
In addition to their stunning red color, you’ll find that Bertagna’s Red Walnuts have a creamy, buttery flavor that is noticeable to even the most untrained palate. As we tested our STRENGTH BLEND with friends and consumers - everyone [without exception] craves these walnuts!
The challenges don’t stop with farming - handling from farm to bag is just as difficult. Every “touch” has the potential to scuff that beautiful red color off the walnut. So, Jimmy and his brother, Greg, spend most of the off-season shopping for equipment and customizing it from top to bottom to make handling as gentle as possible - ensuring their walnuts both taste and look great.
As a family business, their decisions are informed by caring for people and the next generation. It’s inspiring to partner with a family who is constantly considering their employees, neighbors, next generation and customers in all they do. And, if you let them know you’re visiting Chico, we’re guessing they’d welcome you with arms wide open too!
Premium Dried Fruit
ORGANIC DRIED BLUEBERRIES
Sunset Valley Organics, Corvalis, Oregon, United States
Why they’re Exceptional: We first fell in love with Sunset Valley Organic’s blueberries for their taste: plump, naturally sweet, 100% blueberries (nothing added) with that classic flavor you’d expect from your favorite homemade blueberry jam or pancake. THEN, we visited their farm and learned about the Wilt family’s organic and biological farming practices. That’s when we really fell in love (or more accurately - they fell into our LOVE BLEND).
It’s a multi-generational family farm. Bob Wilt has been farming blueberries since 1971. Diane, his wife, joined him when they married in 1977 and takes the lead on making all of their organic berry products (frozen, dried, powder, jams…). Their daughter, Jenni (now 4th generation in farming), is also actively involved and manages their food safety.
Bob and Diane are passionate and VERY intentional about the way they farm. Bob and their farm’s soil went on their healing journey simultaneously - and it’s amazing to hear him explain the parallels between the two. We haven’t yet Bob personally [yet], but his videos share his inspiration beautifully.
They converted their farms from conventional to organic certified farming in 2006. Their farms are now a model to be emulated. Going beyond organic requirements, they create their own compost, avoid nitrate fertilizers, add minerals and focus on soil microbiology. The results are not only better yields and sweeter, heartier berries, but also they’re more nutritious too! Check out their YouTube channel for educational videos on how they do it (and how they sustainably keep birds from eating their berries using Falcons!).
Bob hands off to Diane for drying their berries (and myriad other products). To maximize nutrients, berry quality and freshness for their customers, they freeze their berries immediately upon harvest and dry in small batches as needed. I was amazed to hear Diane explain - after they’re dried, they tumble their blueberries for an entire week to ensure each berry in the batch is perfectly equalized! Unlike other dried berries, there are no additional ingredients. Can you believe it takes 7 times the amount of fresh blueberries to create their dried berries?