Thursday, April 7, 2011
A new direction
The weather here continues to be very hot. We woke this am to lots of morning mist, but by 8:30 it was rising and the sun started beating down. Rene came at sunrise so that he could work before it got really hot. He's become obsessed by a hole he is digging in the back, where he's sure we'll hit water. Things have slowed down their growing and the hole is in the shade in the morning so we told him to go ahead. This starter hole is only about 4' across so I stayed with him to help by hauling up the bucket of dirt and to sure that he's ok. He's mostly into a sticky grey clay which is very wet. He finally stopped at about 8' deep today. We were both hot and tired, but he hates to stop. I hope we'll be able to get him some help to make the hole bigger and deeper.
Now for the really interesting part. You know when you get an idea it wanders around in your head and you can't even remember where it came from? That happened to me with cacao. Maybe it was the article in the Belize Ag Report, I'm not sure. I knew that chocolate came from a bean, but always got cacao and coca mixed up. I google cacao and wow, what a cool plant. Most cacao is grown in Africa, Central and South America, fairly close to the equator. Here in Belize it's in the Toledo District. I sent an email to the Toledo Cacao Grower's Assoc. TCGA for information and got an almost immediate reply. Their consultant lives in San Ignacio and could visit our place on Monday. That's definitely not "Belize Time."
Early monday morning Marco Figueroa came up. What a great guy. He's extremely knowledgeable about growing cacao and was pleased about our interest. He's anxious to get growers here in Cayo, but interest has been minimal. Rene was here so helped by digging test holes and we included him in the discussions. We found that cacao needs to grow in shade and doesn't like marl. In places here the white marl is fairly close to the surface here, but behind and below the buildings would be great areas. It's possible to grow plants from seeds in bags and then plant the seedlings in the ground. This will take about 5 years and then, the cacao plants are notoriously unreliable and many won't bear fruit. Bummer!
Thank goodness Marco had an alternative. We can plant the seeds in bags. At three months we buy buds from proven plants and graft them onto the seedlings. After four more months we plant them. Grafted plants usually produce in about 2 1/2 years. That's sounds much better and more reliable. Wow, we were starting to get really excited. We can send Rene to Punta Gorda to learn more about growing and grafting. He's excited about the project too. Art may decide to go down too. We feel if we can get started, Dreamer Farm will not only be a real farm, but could be an information and education site for local farmers.
The beauty of cacao in Belize is that the TCGA has a contract to furnish organic product to a very large company. Currently they can't begin to supply the desired quantity. The local farmers have been promised so much in the past. If they grow a certain crop, there'll be a market, which never materializes. By growing cacao, working to maintaining the plants (watering, composting, pruning & growing new plants) a couple of acres of cacao should be able to support a family here.
We're meeting Marco in San Ignacio on Saturday to visit his little place to see plants, to get grow bags and to join the TCGA. We'll be on our way. As we progress (I hope) I'll keep you posted. These old dogs are having fun learning new tricks.