When it comes to fruit and veg, it’s perhaps easier for the consumer to consider buying organic, as the finished product is the same as the product being farmed. With chocolate, it’s different. People don’t see a bar of chocolate and consider that it’s made with fruit – the cacao fruit – that similarly needs to be farmed organically.
At Ombar, we’re super passionate about ensuring our ingredients are as sustainably sourced as possible, so sourcing organic cacao is a no brainer!
The knowledge that organic farming is better than non-organic methods is no revelation – it’s not only better for our health, but also for the farmers, and of course the planet. But what does this mean exactly in the world of cacao?
With a bit of help from our cacao expert, Paola, we’re be taking a sneak peek into the world of organic cacao farming.
What does it mean to farm cacao organically?
This one’s really no secret – organic farming means that the crop is grown naturally, without the aid of any synthesised products, such as pesticides or fertilisers. This is the case for organic farming of all kinds. What’s particularly interesting is when you consider non-organic farming in comparison...
Paola has been to visit cacao farms in Ecuador following non-organic farming practices, and at these farms, the fruits produced from the cacao trees are bigger, with the trees producing more fruit on average. The fruits are also less likely to be insect-infested; essentially, this method of farming is more productive and less ‘risky’ in the sense that more money is made.
So, what makes non-organic cacao farming so bad?
Between 10 and 15 different chemicals can be used to aid growth of cacao on these farms. The names of some of the chemicals include: Ammonium Nitrate, Deltametrina, Sulfluramid, Glyphosate, urea fertilizers – never heard of them…? That’s usually a bad sign!
Unsurprisingly, these chemicals are dangerous to be around, and unfortunately, many farms use them which puts farmers’ health at risk. Inhaling these chemicals is damaging to health, with potential long-term health risks, and more often than not, the workers are sadly unaware that this is the case .
Why go organic?
Organic farming means no harmful chemicals involved. This means no chemicals are inhaled by farmers, no chemicals are consumed when the final product has been produced, and no chemicals are absorbed by the soil.
Organic farming is more difficult in the sense that ultimately, it leads to less cacao grown over a longer period of time, with more potential for insect infestation, but the wealth of benefits to us and the planet far outweigh this. Having the planet and sustainability as a priority makes way for more strategic farming methods. For example, to farm our cacao we practice permaculture farming methods. This involves planting cacao trees under the shadows of taller trees, many of which produce dozens of other fruits. The natural ecosystem is maintained making this method of farming a lot more sustainable and a lot less disruptive to the natural habitat (1).
Think of organic farming in the same way as you would buying an item of clothing. If you spend more money on something that has been made sustainably (i.e. not fast-fashion), you know it’ll be better quality, last you a longer time, will have been made with care and with natural materials – it’s a long-term commitment. Cacao farming is similar. We spend more time on the growing process, the farmers putting real care and passion into what they do. The quality of the product is high, with no harmful chemicals, and is better for the planet.
A long-term, but oh-so-worthwhile, commitment.
Check out Paola’s talk on organic cacao farming on our IGTV.