At One Degree Organics, every ingredient that goes into our products is thoroughly vetted to ensure it meets our high standards. We are proud of our healthy, ethical choices. Using raw organic cacao, for example, makes a real difference to the rich taste and nutritional value of our granola and cereals.
As always, we travelled to the source – in this case the ACOPAGRO Cooperative in San Martín, Peru – to meet the farmers and see firsthand how they grow and harvest the beans. We were fascinated, not just by the people, process and quality controls, but also how the growing of cacao has greatly enhanced the social and economic situation for farmers, their families, and the region as a whole.
To briefly explain – drug trafficking used to rule the area. Farmers had no alternative but to plant coca, which is used to make cocaine. Life was oppressive, volatile and often dangerous, and poverty was rampant.
Then in 1994, a United Nations program made it possible for farmers to begin replacing their illegal coca crops with cacao, the primary ingredient in chocolate, and the ACOPAGRO Cooperative was formed. In the beginning there were just 27 farmers; today there are over 2,100. All are committed to cultivating cacao organically and optimizing flavour quality, and are proud to belong and contribute to ACOPAGRO’s ongoing success.
ACOPAGRO is now the largest exporter of organic cacao in Peru. The farmer’s cooperative won first place in a national quality competition in Lima in 2012, and has since published the Best Practices for Cacao Processing guide that was compiled after four years of trials and research led by ACOPAGRO quality manager, David Contreras.
So how do they produce such a high quality product?
It helps that the climate and soil in the San Martín area are ideal for growing cacao. Absolutely no pesticides are needed or used. Crops are kept healthy naturally through hand pruning, row thinning, planting large trees for shade, and the use of approved organic products. When harvesting, farmers only select cacao that is healthy and ripe, splitting the fruit in the field to take out the seeds.
Buckets of seeds – aka beans – are then taken to nearby collection centers where they are weighed, recorded and left to drain for 24 hours. The fermentation process comes next with specialized staff carefully monitoring the temperature and Ph. Even minor changes can ruin the bean or it’s distinctive taste. Once complete, the cacao beans are dried in the sun, packaged and sent to a central warehouse where it’s inspected, organized and shipped worldwide. Traceability is maintained throughout the entire process.
The One Degree family is proud to support sustainable, organic farming initiatives around the globe. This is especially true in the case of ACOPAGRO. Not only do we have complete confidence in their clean farming, processing and quality controls – and love the exceptionally rich chocolate flavour that results – it is gratifying to know that we are helping Peruvian farmers create a better future for themselves.