Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food

266 Laurence Tremblay – How mindset is everything when turning chocolate into a tool for good

December 01, 2023 Koen van Seijen Episode 265
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food
266 Laurence Tremblay – How mindset is everything when turning chocolate into a tool for good
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A conversation with Laurence Tremblay, co-founder and business manager of Guatemalan social enterprise, Cacao Source and founder of the nonprofit arm, Give Back to the Source. Emma Chow, the host of the Regenerative Minds series, explores with Laurence the regenerative mindset in the chocolate industry, cacao's potential for regeneration, cacao farming, culture, and community in Guatemala, and much more.

Emma had a chance to meet some of the Cacao Source team when visiting Guatemala in 2022. Even though Laurence and Emma didn't meet back then, in this conversation they discuss how to design enterprises to realise cacao’s unseen potential while weaving a new story for chocolate, from a different set of values. They talk about regenerative farming and indigenous communities, empowering women, personal responsibility and integrity in food and ag industry.

The Regenerative Mind series is supported by our friends at Stray who are exploring systemic investing with awe and wonder as well as our friends at Mustardseed Trust, who are enabling a transition to a care economy that fosters regenerative food systems.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to a very special series of conversations diving deep into the mindset shift needed for the regenerative transition, hosted by Emma Chauw, friend of the show and active in the regenerative space. For a while, she worked with many of the largest food corporations in the world and went on a deep personal regeneration journey, leading, among other things, to a love for cacao. This is the first time we host another voice on the podcast, so I hope you all give her a very warm welcome. Emma, the mic is yours.

Speaker 2:

Thanks, koon. It's great to be back, and this time in the hosting seat. Through six rich conversations with a range of guests, we're exploring the role of the mind. What mindset enables people to serve as regenerative leaders for a radically better food system? What are the common threads across these conversations? Well, we're about to find out. We're looking at regeneration from the inside out. This series is supported by our friends at Stray, who are exploring systemic investing with awe and wonder, as well as our friends at Mustard Seed Trust, who are enabling a transition to a care economy that fosters regenerative food systems.

Speaker 2:

Thanks so much for tuning in. We hope the conversations crack the door open for you and invite you to explore new ways of thinking and embodiment towards a regenerative tomorrow. Have you ever googled regenerative mind? Well, probably not. It doesn't seem like many people have, as it doesn't draw up many results or clear definitions. Now, today we investigate what this phrase means the regenerative mind, specifically an application to something many of us love chocolate, and how we can rethink chocolate to be part of creating a regenerative tomorrow. There's lots to explore in this conversation. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for tuning in.

Speaker 2:

Welcome everybody to the show Today. My wonderful guest is Laurence Tromblet, the co-founder and business manager of an amazing Guatemalan social enterprise called Cacao Source. She's also the founder of the nonprofit Give Back to the Source, along with a couple other projects that we might get to hear about along our conversation today. Now, laurence, I'm so happy to have you in our conversation today because I got to meet the Cacao Source team when I was visiting Guatemalan 2022, but you weren't around, so I didn't get to meet you in person. So thank you for coming on today and being part of this exploration in the series of the regenerative mind. So I want to dive right in and ask you what comes to your mind when you hear the phrase regenerative mind, and this can be words, phrases, scenes, feelings, objects, smells, really anything.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much, emma. It's very interesting because, if I'm honest, before this podcast actually I never heard about that term. I heard a lot about regeneration, regenerative initiatives, but regenerative mind was something new. I even needed to Google. I'd be like, wait, how would that apply to our mind? And it really got me to think.

Speaker 3:

And I think it's about improvement and I think it's what I always love about the term regenerative especially working with cacao farmers and different farmers all around Guatemala is the improvement side of it. So the fact that it's not a box to take, it's not organic, you know, organic it's like it has a box where you take and it has things you need to do. But regenerative is more about the improvement of the soil. So in the mind, I would say it's more about the improvement of the mind. So it's not in mind that you can just take a box and I'll say I have a regenerative mind. It's a choice that we do every day of how can we, you know, nurture our mind and see and feel and think more clear. So, as an image, I see kind of a garden in the mind, a lush garden, you know, where the smells would be flowers and where there's more peace in the mind, so like coming from, let's say, to understand the regenerative mind.

Speaker 3:

I try to understand what would a non-regenerative mind look like and I just imagine them in the culture, you know, of a, of consumption, of the capitalist system, of so in mind that really was born in the system of capitalism that you know. Naturally, we react to what we see, to marketing, advertisement, to just taking, you know, the system as it is and that has depleted a lot of our minds throughout, at least throughout my growing up, throughout my time being a childhood. And now it's just about really re-nourishing that mind and, every day, making the choices to to just, you know, nourish it a bit better, and it doesn't mean to be perfect, but you know, just a bit better every day. And I think that that's how I would see a regenerative mind.

Speaker 2:

I love that and I want to get into the Googling piece in a second, but what I'm hearing is is about this evolution, evolutionary approach, perhaps, and like belief in those, this unseen potential that keeps unraveling and discovery. Rather than saying we know what the answer is, we put it in a box and let's make a list of things we need to do each time, and thank you for highlighting that this is not a commonly heard or spoken about term, and that's part of the motivation for having these conversations, because mindset is becoming more and more part of the dialogue in terms of how do we see transformation in our entire world, including in food and agriculture, of course, but making the implicit explicit. So that's what this is all about, and I'm curious when you Google which are mine what came up? Did anything come up that had some form of coherence?

Speaker 3:

Not necessary. It says a lot about improvement, but I think it's a new term, so it's just not something where it gave me the answer to answer you today in this podcast you know what I? Mean. So it's just like if we'd have thought about improvement and where would that go and the mindset of it, and that's why I kind of thought into it and then I was like, okay, that's first thought, what would not be regenerative mind? But now it doesn't give you the perfect definition, unfortunately.

Speaker 2:

But that's like all things, regenerative. There's no clear definition, is there Exactly? I also love this visual that you painted a picture of the garden and just describing this flourishing, abundant garden that's what I saw in my mind and all these different flowers you're describing and sensory experience, and I think that is a parallel to regeneration of the ecosystems. Right and when we're moving from the conventional monocropping, highly extractive, mechanistic way of farming to one that's working with nature and moving towards abundance through regenerative practices or production methods. I should say it's hugely contrasting that scarcity mindset versus abundance mindset, and I think what we got as a result in the ecosystems too, is that resonating or something you've seen in your own experience.

Speaker 3:

Definitely Like. I would like to push it a bit further is if, let's say, you were doing a regenerative farm. One of my really good friends is in the middle of desert land in Guatemala and she tried to start a regenerative farm out of the Chaldea, one of the most degraded farm I've ever seen. It's lots of work. It's not. Also, we imagine a lush garden and it's just a lush garden and it's beautiful.

Speaker 3:

It actually needs to be watered every day and sometimes you have a pest coming in and sometimes it's a lot of work and a lot of discipline. So I would imagine the same with the regenerative mind, where it's not just butterflies and flowers, it's also you need to water it, you need to feed it, you need to give compost to it, you need to nurture the soil and all of it. So I think it also means a lot of discipline, a lot of waking up early, listening to the needs of it and nurturing it in a daily base. So it's not, as I mentioned, something you can just do a checkbox and say, okay, now I want the regenerative mind and that's my action and now I have one. It's really something that you can never give up on and you always need every day to nurture that mind.

Speaker 2:

And how, because I've met some people who just seem to have been born thinking and having this sort of mindset, and others who have had a moment in their life that has sparked an aha, and then others that they can't seem to point on what has led them on this journey or this way of thinking, but it's been more gradual over decades. Even so, I'm curious for you what made you think this way?

Speaker 3:

I think I do think it's a gradual thing. I don't think it's like one from one day to another, or maybe it can. There's always exception, you know. But at least I think the world is in metaphor and I've never seen the degraded soil going through a green, regenerative soil from one day to another. It's lots of small things in life and a lot of decision making and choices that you take over and over.

Speaker 3:

For me, I know it started. I remember the first time I heard about, let's say, nestle I don't know if it's Bat, my friend, but you know where you realize, wow, there's this chocolate brand that I've eaten. I loved candies when I was young, I was completely addicted. And then you realize that this brand that actually is encouraging certain exploitation of human, of nature and going even further, child slavery. And every time you buy it you're saying yes to that. So it's this one decision where it's like, okay, from now on I don't buy anymore of this brand. And it's only one brand. You know it's not starting and saying from now on I don't buy anything in the supermarket because pretty much all of it is associated to exploitation in one form to another. But just starting with one. And then you're like, wow, I can do that, maybe I can do two.

Speaker 3:

And for me it's just like this gradual choice of when something came in my life that didn't fill an alignment with my values, of saying no to it and not trying to search to change the whole world and my whole habit, but really to take one at a time, until even today, actually, my choices are still not always perfect. It's very challenging in this society to be 100% ethical. You know it's almost every choice you need to do to find the sourcing, to find what comes from, what it means, what it's encouraged. It's very challenging. So for me it's a very gradual process and the further you are in this process, the more opportunities there is to make impact. So you know it comes from personal choices.

Speaker 3:

Until at some point, okay, I say no to this brand, but this point now we have, with my partners, a Kakao social enterprise. So now we're not only saying no to something, but we're also offering an alternative. So it's a long journey, but for on my side, the most important was that every step I take in my journey it's consolidated. So it's not. How can I say that? It's not a huge change happening that at some point you can't live up to it anymore. It's every, every choice I make. It's like okay, how can I consolidate it in my lifestyle? And once it's consolidated, then I can grow and make a new choice. So it's an extremely long process.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's like this continuous unraveling right, because we're also learning more and more and once you start to tug that thread, oh wow, there's so much, so many different paths to dig into. And I want to, especially for all the listeners out there who don't know Kakao Source, because a couple of years ago I'd never heard of it and I was so appreciative of someone in my travels who said if you're going to go on Mali, you must check them out. And it was part of my own chocolate and Kakao learning journey, shall we say, because, as you're highlighting, the Kakao and chocolate industry today at large is hugely extractive, hugely detrimental to people's well-being, and there's economic issues in terms of people poorly being paid, et cetera, et cetera, and it doesn't need to be that way. I used to sit a couple of years ago and when I would think about a region of future, I would ask myself I'd be like are there maybe just some foods that don't exist, like they can't exist? And it's chocolate one of them, which I was, of course, very upset about, because I too have well, I haven't been into candy so much as a kid. If we speak about more chocolate, that's, that was my track, and getting into darker and darker chocolates over the years, so that was about upsetting for me to contemplate a future without chocolate.

Speaker 2:

So this is genuinely part of my excitement of coming across organizations like Kakao Source, that that is showing that, more than just being neutral, right and undoing the bad stuff both for people and for the earth, chocolate as we know it, if we've reimagined it in a fundamental way, can actually be this beautiful force of positive regeneration, and I think that's even the vision statement on on Kakao Source's website. It's something along regeneration through Kakao. Like Kakao is the tool for regeneration not just of the earth, but also the social aspect, which is often overlooked. Thank you, thank you?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, totally For us, not for us. Actually, I can't own this statement. But Kakao is medicine and that's why it's bitter. The bitterness is a sign of this medicine. And it's not only medicine for our health, but it's also medicine for the land. It's an incredible crop partner in a Niagara Forestry system. It gives, it's abundant, it's great in Niagara Forestry system and it's medicine also socially, like it has.

Speaker 3:

It used to be currency, it used to be abundant in the literal form of finance, in the literal form of society. So it has this potential to be regenerative. It has this potential to be a medicine of the land, of the people, of even finance of everything. And that's for me, how it catch my eye, because I never really thought about Kakao much growing up as a job. I'm from Canada, so of course you don't think about working with Kakao trees one day. It's not part of your vision, you know.

Speaker 3:

But I work in social business for almost a decade now and when I learned about Kakao a lot thanks to my business partner, jordan, it was this aha moment. I was like, wait, we can do business and do good for people and do good for nature and do good financially, you know, without being a charity and just it has, and culturally also it has a lot of cultural and spiritual weight in the medicine of Kakao. So it had this kind of wholesome, holistic, which is a bit what regeneration is. It's this like full circle, this cycle that you want to build. So for me it's just kind of this plan that completed the model I was trying to build with social business, and now I'm trying to extract this model and bring it in through other types of products and other types of business models. But Kakao was really the one that that brought me to the realization that it's possible to have a business and do good, and do good not only environmentally but in all aspects.

Speaker 2:

And how. When you and your partners were originally designing the business model and structure of Kakao Source which I'd love to go into a little bit more of what informed your decision making like? Were you looking at specific frameworks or teachers teachings permaculture, I think, which has been part of you know your past. What informed that?

Speaker 3:

So I'm completely passionate with permaculture but, if I'm honest, it's like one secret. Truth is that I have a horrible green thumb. I'm not. I love digging holes, I love, like, helping out with my friends Most of my best friends are leaders in permaculture and I try to do my garden and home and it just doesn't work, you know, and I get it all like I get the system, you know. But I think there's a magical thing of being able to work with the earth. But for me, permaculture has been amazing in business because it's it's a system and it has principles, it has ethics, designs and what I wanted to see is okay, I don't have a green thumb, but I'm good with building projects. So let's see if I can bring all of permaculture into the business world because it's a system.

Speaker 3:

The business world is a system. You know, business plans that are taught in the university are systems that you follow and it's quite logical and it's. But usually it's from A to B and you have this one point and you want to go to the success point, to the profit gain, and that's it. But with permaculture it's a circular system, so it's from A to B to A, and how can you create that cycle and that flow. So. So that was when I, when I got to learn about Kakao and got to meet up with my business partners and we were just brainstorming as we're like, okay, let's, let's try to bring permaculture into Kakao source. How can we create a model that completely is an expression of permaculture but it's in the business?

Speaker 3:

And that was kind of a tryout. We really went blindly into it. But now it's been almost four years and a half that we have Kakao source and it's been amazing. It's been an amazing journey. It has grown. We started without investment, without any loans, nothing, and we're still without any loans, debts or anything, and we don't have any outside investors in Kakao source itself. And it really grew naturally, actually, and that's been amazing to witness and to kind of see the fruits. You know, collect the yields is one of the principles and and it's been from the day one we've been collecting yields and it's been amazing and we've been able to share these yields with everyone involved with the farmers, the women's collective and the Kakao source team, which now we're 10 of us, multicultural, so from indigenous to Latinos to foreigners all in one team sharing the management and the decision making.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for laying that out and it totally is right. It's moving. It's that seeing everything as a system and seeing the interconnection between the different parts. And so, with Kakao source, can you explain a bit about how do you actually work with farmers? Because most chocolate that we might have in our kitchen shelves right now is Kakao, is a commodity which is hugely opposite to how you work with farmers. It's not aggregated from hundreds thousands of farmers, it's single origin. Can you just explain how that works? And also, you spoke about the women's collectives. What is that relationship? So what role do they have as Kakao source ecosystem?

Speaker 3:

Hmm, let's start with the farmers. So, at the level of the farmers, single origin comes from the fact that every single source of our Kakao comes from a certain earth. So actually, when you look into Kakao, the palette of taste of Kakao is even more developed than the wine one. So imagine when we start working with the oil which the earth affects the taste, the energy of the Kakao. So we never split, we never mix the Kakao. So, and when we say we don't mix the Kakao, because we often see single origin and some projects but they single origin, that is, from Philippines, from Guatemala, peru, but a single origin can't be from a country. You know there's so many earth and different climate within one country. So we we don't mix within the farms. So we work in three different region of Guatemala with six different producers and we never mix the producers. We do have exceptions where we let's say there's a lot of, because we work with small scale, locally on farms. So there's a lot of farmers that only have a parcel. A parcel is like a small piece of land, so it's so small that it can't produce enough, probably to have, you know, a full origin of Kakao. So let's say, in the origin of Lula La, which is in Nadkin, from the project of Tuk-Tuk-Dal. They work with 53 small scale farmers but they're all from the region of Lantkin. So in this case it's different farmers but all from the same region and pretty much the same earth. So this is the most extended. We go with the single origin. If not, it's small families. So let's say we have an origin and et cetera which is in Livingston and it's just one small family in a village about one hour from the Rio doce and then, like our can new ride to bring the Kakao to the closest boat, who finally come to us. So it's all small scale, locally owned farm, single origin.

Speaker 3:

And then we try as much as possible to be part of the process of how much is the wet Kakao bought from the farmers, so to ensure also that the money goes to the, to the producers themselves, so to meet the producers, know them, visit them on a regular basis and work with them. So there's if let's say the Lantkin project, we're settled in Neketitan Nekin is about 10 hours from Neketitan. It's one of the origin which we can't support as much as we want because we can't visit them as regularly as we want. So in this case we work with the origin narrative center and then we pay an extra amount for every bag we buy from the producers to go into a social project led by the origin narrative center. So then we make sure that they also receive that support that we give in the farms that are closer to us. And the same we're doing with the origin in Isabel, which is even further away from us. We work with an NGO called Contour Line. They're amazing, they planted over a million trees across Guatemala and a portion of the amount we give to the farmers also go to the NGO. So we pay a bit more than what we would pay the farmer and then we can continue to support that social work that the NGO is doing.

Speaker 3:

And then the third one is in the region of Sucitibicus, which is very close by the Leketitan. So the Sucitibicus farm we visit very regularly, where we try to bring different capacity building. We try to develop with them inclusive relationship, that is, from ecotourism to capacity building, to just developing that trust and that relationship and really deepening it and collaborating in the and hearing and listening to what they have to say and what's our needs and what they want and really including them in the growth of Kakao Source. So this is the part of the farmers. For us, it's very important to work with farmers that are not necessarily established. That also comes with challenges, if I'm honest, because some of them were not organic when we met them and they were not established. And sometimes we look up to you know, there's other Kakao project doing amazing things that works with established collective of farmers and it's like so simple and they still offer everything we offer, you know, the quality Kakao and all of that and it's it looks more simple, but for us and we did consider it, you know but for us it always comes back to actually, no, we want to work with some projects that are less established, so then we can have more of an impact.

Speaker 3:

So, really, that regenerative mindset, so people that hasn't checked the box yet of, okay, I'm organic, I'm doing all these things, I have certifications but rather farmers that wants to improve, and that was important in our concept of okay, let's work with those who wants to improve, and sometimes they change their mind and sometimes they're like, actually, we don't want any more support and we're happy how we are and we want to use chemicals and and it hurts a bit, but we're in Guatemala and there's a agriculture culture here and we also need to to move with it and and to work with it from from the start. You know from where the mindset is not open to change and to see if there's an openness. As soon as we see a small door open, we try to jump in it and be like, okay, there's, you know that farmer has has the door open and wants to make change, so let's work with that farmer. Yeah, but it's been a journey.

Speaker 3:

It's not perfect. I think for generation, my biggest learning is it's not perfect, yeah.

Speaker 2:

I'm not trying to strive towards perfection, right, because there is no single rendering of that either, because every place is different. Even these, these different farming regions that year, or farm plots, right, some of them quite small, that you're sourcing from, are hugely distinct, to the point that they render cacao that tastes completely different.

Speaker 2:

You know, of course it all tastes like cacao, but there's the different flavor profiles and palates that you're speaking about. That's because of the soil and the plants around it and the flavors of the fruits around it and the coffee and everything. So it's something about this connection with place in a deep way, and not just at a country level, right, but at a plot by plot. It's all different and how do?

Speaker 2:

we honor that uniqueness and the people who are tending to that land and listen to them in a deep way. So those farmers, are they all indigenous?

Speaker 3:

Most and it's a very interesting how can I say that question? In a way, because it's if you go in the pacific coasts of Guatemala, most farmers do not consider themselves indigenous. They'll be indigenous descendants. But Guatemala has a very strong history and a very deep one. So there's lots of hardship in the history. A lot of people were moved from their lands, brought into fincas. Fincas are large scales farms and they grew up now through a few generations where their ancestors didn't live and a lot of these farmers won't necessarily consider themselves indigenous.

Speaker 3:

And I think sometimes, especially in the part of our, cacao is sold as a ceremonial cacao and we see farmers you know, I don't know, people has a romanticization around cacao farmers which most of farmers are Catholic or evangelist.

Speaker 3:

Guatemala is an extremely religious country and on the coast, where most big fincas are, most of the farmers see themselves as Latinos, because also there's been lots of mix within the years of the Spanish or Germans coming in the country, and so it's an interesting question. Most foreigners that would come in and go to the farms would say yes, they're indigenous, they do seem, they do look indigenous, but it's a personal question for every farmer In the Lankin region and at the Verapaz. Most of them do are indigenous, so they do consider themselves indigenous and some of the practices are still there. The language is still there. Actually, when we go, we usually have a translator from Spanish to Quechis, because most farmers don't speak Spanish. But then again, when it comes to traditions of the Mayan indigenous culture, it's also a tricky question because it's not well seen in most communities to practice indigenous culture. So, yeah, it's a good question, but yeah, I would say all of the farmers we work with right now are from a Mayan indigenous descendants.

Speaker 2:

So something in their ancestral lineage does have this connection, inherent connection with cacao which, as you mentioned at the beginning of our conversation, is a medicine right and cacao itself translates into food of the gods. So I was curious to see that ancestral healing line as well, how that traces through the farmers.

Speaker 3:

A lot like. In that point it's interesting because some of it is also still kept secret. So, as we had a farmer that told us that his father would have him do a ceremony when they plant the cacao, but he wouldn't tell us what the ceremony is or he wouldn't go further into it, he's like, oh no, I can't share about that. So also a lot of the culture and traditions. Some of them are still there but they're just not spoken up or they're like going to be at night at like 2am. You know you're going to start hearing Something happening in the busty in the woods, but yeah, it's still something unspoken. And I feel that these questions often I like when they're answered by the farmers themselves Are you indigenous, do you consider yourself or do you practice? I think it's the ones that should be answered by the community themselves.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well then I want to give a bit of space for the women who you work with too, because a lot of the story of cacao starts from the impact. It's having incredible effects on women in the communities, both in the processing of the cacao when it gets to San Marcos, but then also in the journey between. Can you speak a bit about who these women are, who you work with and what that has been like?

Speaker 3:

So we work with seven women's collective and San Marcos are the guna and the ketitlan, and how we work is usually we connect with the leader and most of the leaders we've connected or all of the leaders, if I can say we're not didn't know how to process cacao. So we were more looking for threats than someone who knew the work of the cacao. And then, once we found these leaders, we would train them to process the cacao and explain the whole, like how do you roast, how do you work, and you go grind the cacao, the peeling and all the. We would walk them through the process and then they would start leading a team. So they would work with their neighbors and family members, some single woman, women in need of work, and and then they would process all of the cacao of cacao source. So the ideal is it's very easy to process cacao. There's industries in Guatemala city where we could send our cacao beans and they would do the whole process with it for us, with all the license, and make our life probably much easier, if I'm honest. But then where would the money go? So it would go in the hand of one person, probably, and maybe a few employees, but not really in the hands of the community. So the goal with the women's collective is how can we ensure that all the incomes we generate with cacao source goes back to the community, especially the local community of Guatemala from rural areas? So that's how we started working with the women's collective.

Speaker 3:

So the women's are doing the heart of the work, really the whole process, hand peeling every single cacao by hand. It's a lot of time, it's a lot of heart and and the huge, huge part of what we do. They're part of the team, they're part of the vision of the project. We sit with them, we create meetings once a month with all the women and brainstorm and share and we bring our vision in. Sometimes they're happy, sometimes they're not happy. It's a very, very human project. So the more people we work with also the more human challenges comes in and it's been a journey to go through it, especially of the we're different cultures. Our team is also extremely multi-cultural. So it's been a nice process and not perfect one, once again. So sometimes we do mistakes, we think we are doing something right and we're like, actually no, we want to change that after hearing feedbacks and growing. So we grow as the women grow. So I said, we're offering capacity building, but they're also inputting a lot in cacao source and helping us grow a lot.

Speaker 3:

So it's a definitive two-way relation and the goal was to have them independent. So, for example, probably our biggest success and my personal belief, is one of the first women collective we started working with. Now, her sister went to the US and with her sister she started her own brand of cacao, mayan Moon cacao, and this is amazing and she still worked with us. She still processed some of our cacao when she has time and her own project, but you know, have been completed and she has more space.

Speaker 3:

But it's really the vision of cacao source is how can all of the groups we work with that are completely independent the farmers and the women we don't have any contract with them that say they can only work with us and they become independent, and not only independent in a way where they go work with other projects, but independent where they created their own project and where they're their own boss. Now and they're there. Yeah, they have like the ownership of a project. They slowly, you know, go by themselves and I hope one day, actually, that collective stop working with us because she has enough work with her own project and can go on, and then we can train a new collective and we can keep going like this. So that's been amazing to see that progress and definitely learning experience for everyone in our team, and probably also for the women's collective, of having that collaboration that is always evolving.

Speaker 2:

It sounds a lot like. So much of this is for you as a team especially building that value system to appreciate learning and leaning into that process, because it is, as you're describing, a big process. And it's one thing to shy away from and say this is our plan, this is how we're going to do things and off we go and really not look back, and it's another to take everything step by step and build in those moments, to look at things critically, to name what could we have done better, as you were saying and there's something that I'm hearing as you speak around the ownership and the distribution of power which typically in the world we're in, it's often very centralized and very hierarchical, and in what you're describing it sounds much more distributed and nodal, to the point where you celebrate someone in the collective innovating and coming up with their own business in a very entrepreneurial way.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, definitely, and in the team itself. So in the permaculture model there, in the ethics, they're the fair share and for us it's been very, very important to follow this ethics. So in the team of kickoffs or itself, my salary is not the highest one and we're talking a difference of $115, probably dollars I'm trying to do the translation and dollars. With the management team that are composed of indigenous and Latinos. We pretty much have all the same salary in the Guatemalan salary system.

Speaker 3:

So that we are a foreigner Latinos when I refer to Latinos I mean people from Guatemala City and indigenous I mean people that still speak the indigenous language and are from an indigenous community. We split salaries depending on hours of work and responsibilities and experience a tiny bit. So usually after a year we raise the salary of like $100 a month, something like that, but if not, everyone is on equal salary. So that's, let's say, our three main managers of kickoffs source. We have one that is from Europe, one that is from Guatemala City and one that is from San Juan de Laguna, and the three of them have the exact same salary, which is almost none like.

Speaker 3:

It's not happening in Guatemala this way. So we're very proud of it and we want to keep it this way, because I feel that should be the future. So it's been a journey also for as a foreigner in Guatemala, to let go of certain comfort, to be able to live and have the integrity with this model. But that also means less traveling, that means thinking twice before going to the restaurant and things like that. That's also the reality of most people in the country I decided to live in.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, wow, it's super interesting and, just coming through our discussion now, we've been going in all sorts of different areas, which has been so good, and I want to come back to the regimen mind and this piece of mindset which so clearly is underpinning and affects every aspect of your work and what cacao sauce is. But how important do you think the mind slash mindset is in evolving our current food and agriculture systems? Do you think? Do you think it's important or not? And B, do we focus enough even on it?

Speaker 3:

I think it's everything. If I'm honest in the way that the growth of our agricultural system and of businesses and the way we work in life all start with the choices we make, and the choices we make is completely in relation to the mindset we have. So I don't think we could really see change in this world if the mindset don't change. And what was the second question? Well, do you?

Speaker 2:

think we focus on it enough.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, good question. I think it really depends from where we're from and what path we take. I come from public schools from Canada, so no, I don't think we do. I think there's been a lot of growth in that field in the last years. When I speak with some family members that work in the education system, I feel they brought more diversity in the school system and what is prioritizing the society. But I think it's just the beginning and there's a lot of it that is very scary to explore as a society, because that would mean letting go of certain comfort.

Speaker 3:

I don't believe we pay enough for food and I don't think it's a privilege to pay more for food. I feel it's a choice and certain food give more nutrients, so then it's choosing nutrient food over quantity of food, and if you eat less but better, you need less food. So actually financially it comes back to a similar amount you need to pay for the month. So I think it's a very scary road to take as a society to really look into it and really question our mindset, question our choices, question our growth, where we want to grow it out. Do we want to find technological solutions to keep doing agriculture, bringing more GMO in to keep having huge production for minimal cost, or do we want to change that? Because when you look at the farming system, it's not working anymore?

Speaker 3:

You look in India there's a huge crisis with suicides of the farmers because they lost hope in the system. You look at Guatemala and there's a huge immigration towards America because they also lost hope in the system. So I think we're at the point where we need to take care of our farmers and we need to start valuing the work they do if we want to continue to eat well. And nourishment of the mindset is also nourishment through food. Everything is connected. Having healthy, good nutrient food really helps a good mindset. If we feed well our body, our mind, it's happier. We can also then make better choices. So everything is connected and it's where to start, and are we ready to start?

Speaker 2:

I love that.

Speaker 2:

I also love the direct connection literally between the gut microbiome and the brain. Right that there's a connection and growing evidence, and I know other conversations in this podcast series that listeners can go tune into to learn more about that. But, as you say, there's a lot at risk to the current system if we dig into this area in a big way, because it entails uprooting entire belief systems. Right, rather than saying my food is for my calories and volume, I say my food is to feel my body and give me high quality nutrition and bring life into my body. That's a very different. That's going to lead to very different outcomes in what I put in my shopping basket and put my dollars to and that value of food piece that you're highlighting.

Speaker 2:

So, yeah, I'm with you and all of that and you're speaking a bit about education and I, like you, grew up in Canada and in the public school system and nothing really was ever highlighting the mindset and the inner capacity side of things. But I want you to speak a bit about the nonprofit and give back to the source, because I know in one of our calls before this live conversation you're speaking about an upcoming project which is all about education. It's a school, so tell us a bit about that, and I'm curious will there be anything that focuses on the inner world as well as the outer world?

Speaker 3:

Hmm, that's a very good direction. So when we started working with KakaoSource, we pay well the farmers, much above the fair trade price, which I don't believe is a good price. But I also don't believe what we pay our farmers is a good price. But we live in a market where everyone wants the cheapest and have the most for the cheapest. You know, and beyond the fact that we pay above the fair trade price, it's really to look at the farmers and say can they go out of poverty with the payment we give them Because the fair trade price? In Guatemala, farmers can't go out of poverty with it, especially nowadays where diseases and pests are increasing and every year they lose a larger percentage of the harvest due to these diseases and pests. So what can we do, you know? And we're already paying so much and we're probably one of the most expensive KakaoSource in the market right now, without any profit gain on the shareholders, so we never touch any profit and everything goes back to the community or the growth of the impact of the project. So what do we do, you know, as a company, knowing that, yes, we're supporting the farmers more than most projects in the region but, in my belief, still not enough to have a true impact and to really see that independence I spoke about from the women's collective, where they could, yeah, like, start being, you know, start their own entrepreneurial journey and get out of poverty by themselves, without you know, outside foreign help. And that's what we want to see with the farmers.

Speaker 3:

So, after two years, I believe, of working with KakaoSource, of developing the project, that's where we decided to open the NGO, give back to the source. At first we looked for an NGO where we could just donate part of our profit, but there was not necessarily one NGO working in the region of Sucutipiqe, where most of our farms are, and they were not, you know, every, you know have an idea of the needs that say, after a few years of working in the fields, you see certain needs and we couldn't find really that project that answered directly these needs we would see, so we'd give back to the source. The idea was really okay, let's jump in and let's create a project that not only supports local farming communities, women empowerment and so on, but also that connects with consumers, because our biggest challenge with KakaoSource is not necessarily on the local side here in Guatemala, where we put most of our energy, but more on the international side of understanding the value of food. So if you don't pay for your, if you don't pay the right amount for your food, someone else pay. And then the question is, who does? And most often it's the farmers. So people see a discount at the supermarket and they're like, yes, only a dollar for that chocolate bar, but that just means that the farmer got the list. You know, it's not the big company that will have less food, less income. So with the NGO, the goal is, you know, give back to the source. So it's really closing that cycle and empowering consumers and businesses to close that, to take that responsibility of closing that cycle. So to give back to the rural community and then with this income, with these donations, we're able to work directly in the rural communities. So far we've worked with a group of indigenous women in capacity building using bamboo as a material. So they've learned bamboo artisan alchemy in one month training and we're about to build a center, a co-artisan center.

Speaker 3:

So the goal is really to collaborate with women, include women in the regenerative movement so that they bring value into regenerative yields of their local environment. So this brings more value to the organic, regenerative yields. So then you know it brings a market to it. So farmers, also farmers. You know it's to be a farmer. You need to be an opportunist. You need to see where there's a market. If not, you can't survive. So a lot of farmers, when they see there's no more market, they cut down their yield and they plant a new one.

Speaker 3:

So what we want to see is to start valuing the regenerative yields, organic yields. So farmers see an opportunity in it. So they want to join that movement Because they don't have the privilege to just be like let's try and agroforestry system and give it a try, because they need to bring food to the table of their kids. So then GEO was really about okay, how can we bring more value to these yields? So farmers wants to pursue these yields and how can we include women? Now, women in most rural Guatemala do not work and they're not involved in the economy of the village. So we're speaking about a huge, like a huge level of poverty in rural communities of Guatemala and then you notice that women are not involved in the economy. So what if women would be involved in the economy? That's 50% of the population. So the goal is really to involve women and to value regenerative agriculture.

Speaker 2:

And so with this, so part of it and correct me if I'm wrong, but part of it is around like this diversification of skills and hey, just having skills that can bring women into economic activities, and then what? I guess, what's the impact? Like what do we see happen when money starts to go into women's hands?

Speaker 3:

Well, that's also in depth Conversation is built in Guatemala with history.

Speaker 2:

We could have a whole podcast on that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, exactly yeah. Guatemala has, you know, 36 years of civil war in the country, where abuse against women were, in a certain way, part of the culture, and this only stopped in 1996, so not that long ago. So a lot of the people we work with was part of that time, and the culture, this big and this impactful, doesn't go away from one day to another through peace treaty. So Guatemala is ranking on one of the highest country with a genocide women abuse and you name it, I'm a woman. That's definitely a cause. It's out of the rich. Well, it's part of regeneration in a certain way, but not our culture one. So it's also a way for us to work with that team, which is a hard one. So bringing money in the hands of women also means economical empowerment. So if you do not have money and in your household it's not going well, it's very, very hard to get out of it. Most of abuse against women in Guatemala are not going to court. There's no punishment for it. Not so long ago they tried to put the law where, if the men would rape a woman, the sentence of a woman taking an abortion would be higher than the sentence of the men who raped the woman. So it's a very challenging time to be a woman and just bringing the economical freedom in the hands of the woman can change the future of the kids also, because often women is proven that they're most likely to manage the finances for the benefits of the family Before men. Of course there's exceptions, of course there's amazing men out there, but there's studies who shows that there's just more impact generally when the money goes in the hands of the woman, and then it also allows them the freedom to choose, which for us is very important. So all the workshops that we're developing right now the goal is that the women's are independent from the NGO, are independent from Kekal source. So yes, it was an initiative from Kekal source, but the whole NGO is built for independence of the local community. So then they can choose with who they want to work, when they want to work, how much they want to work, because they also have needs at home.

Speaker 3:

When we bring economical activities in the hands of women, it's not that they're doing nothing. Women's are working extremely, extremely hard from morning to night, so that just means that they're doing one more thing, so it's even more work. So not just having more work in their hands, because they're going to keep doing the cooking and the cleaning and the dishes and the care for the children and on top of that they're going to do the economical activity. So that's also something we need to consider when we bring these workshops in and capacity building to ensure that we're not also overworking. But the only challenge right now with the work that the women do is that they're not valued for it, which is the history of women, you know, of doing all these housework is that there's no economical value for it. So we want to bring economical value to the work they do, but we do also understand that they're going to still have to work at home unless the culture start changing like it did in some of the Western countries. But that's at the own rhythm, you know, of the communities.

Speaker 2:

Yes, there's something in those coming to me just here you speak around. Maybe part of having what we're calling a rich mindset is the courage to break cycles. Right, you're describing all these deeply entrenched cycles that are very difficult to overcome, but believing that they can be broken and rewritten in a much more positive light, and belief in the potential and seeing beyond the current reality. And the other piece that was coming to me was the best way to apply the original mindset in the most helpful way of service for society is when there's such a clear vision and mission, like our whole conversation, that just so clear what the North Star is like, who, who you're serving, where that place is, and everything is just oriented to that.

Speaker 2:

We started with KakaoSource the business, and now moving into the areas of need that you identified in these communities of focus and therefore this, this concept of this NGO, which is not a typical concept, right, having this goal of independence for the community to own emerged from. So I just want to want to share what was coming through on my side listening to you speak. Thank you for that, thank you, yeah, now we've dug deep into KakaoSource, the known profit, and now I know you also have other projects. You don't need to go in depth, but I'm going to share because we're talking about diversity and this is part of it. Right, this is this is coming to me like is part of it again, breaking out of the cycles of like you have one job and that's what you do, and you work for one organization and you work nine to five. Maybe something different is part of having a job mindset, tell us.

Speaker 3:

For sure, like, first, I need to say, the NGO that I deal came from also diversifying the channels of KakaoSource in a way where I'm like what if happens? If the market of KakaoCrash which right now you know it's I don't know if you saw it it's moving a lot, it's getting actually higher than it never did in decades and it's a very uncertain one because of diseases and pests. I was like what if that happens? And what will we do with all the communities we work with? And part of the permaculture is really diverse to yield. You know it's making sure you want to create resiliency and impact you have. So then, joe was also a way to create that resilience and the work we do to ensure that, if the market goes down, that the community and the work we do don't only rely on it and we don't just okay, goodbye, and then we walk out and part of it also. So that led us also to our newest. One of our newest project, which is the, is eco-education eco-education in Spanish and it's a school we have. We've been working in partnership with Tropica, which is a new project in Chica, which is typical, and the owner was generous from the first time we met her. She's the one who donated the land for the Equartus and Women's Center and she's also an investor with her land in that project of the eco-education and the goal is to create a school pretty much regenerative initiatives yeah, that comes from natural building to bamboo cob doby, you name it To going to Agrofoestri permaculture and to Kakao Research, because, as I said, kakao is going to start facing more and more challenge and we want to be prepared for it.

Speaker 3:

How do we do best in disease management in the most healthy way for the environment and people? So we want to go deeper into this. We want to build this school. We build a business plan about a year or two ago and ever since we've been waiting for the right person, right or people to come in and support that project, because it's a long term project. It's, for me, probably going to be my life work and, yeah, we really want to go deeper into it. It's a social enterprise, so it's not going to be an NGO model. We want it to be a circular economy model. So part of the school will be serving diverse people from all countries Guatemala, latinos but through courses that are going to have a cost, and the other half of the year is to train and offer education for the local community in regenerative initiatives. So my partner, for example, works as a bamboo architect and there's not that many people from Guatemala who knows how to work with bamboo and construction, so part of the school would be to answer that need. So what if we have more people who knows how to build with bamboo? That's a whole new world for Guatemala and has a lot of potential.

Speaker 3:

And it's the same with Cobb and Earth Building. It was part of Guatemala's culture until there was an earthquake and the houses didn't have foundation. But the community didn't relate it to the foundation challenge. It related to the Earth Building Challenge. And now there's a cultural thought around Earth Building that it's not sustainable, especially for Guatemala, because there's huge risk of earthquake, not risk. There's a lot of earthquake all year long and it's very scary to have a Cobb house or a Dobie house because you're afraid that it's going to fall off when there's going to be earthquake. But actually there's solutions to that and we can still do natural building, especially now that we're starting to use bamboo, which is extremely flexible. So Earth and bamboo works well.

Speaker 3:

And same with permaculture. So when we speak out during courses, we don't want to give permaculture courses to the community. We want to also identify cultural bridges which would make more sense to bring certain initiatives to the community. Because if you ask someone who lives on the day to day to learn about permaculture, probably he doesn't want or she doesn't want. It's not a priority. The priority is to bring food at home.

Speaker 3:

But how can we bring this concept and adapt it culturally that it becomes something that is useful and has potential to bring an income for the community? So that's more the direction we're going. Because we say accessibility and often I work with foreigners which is like I bring my offerings accessible, I give it free for the community, but it's not culturally accessible, it's not intellectually accessible, like it doesn't fit the needs of the community. So most people will never join. So you'll still only have foreigners in the course, even if it's free.

Speaker 3:

So we want to change the way of offering these courses that it makes sense, that it can be used in the day to day of someone from Chikagau or the surrounding farming communities. How can you diversify land, how can you use your small plot of land and make an income out of it and just start brainstorming? But first is really sitting down with the community, like now. I'm just assuming some of the needs, but a big part of that school will just be sitting down with community and hearing what they have to say and hearing what they want and what they need from what they think they want and they need. That's the most important and then creating courses that answers these needs and desires from the community we work with.

Speaker 2:

All about the context. Isn't it Tailoring to the context? And yeah, again a parallel to what I've learned in my journey around what does regenerative food production, for instance, look like? It looks completely different in place to place depending on the context. So it's taking that same sort of principle and saying well, how do we do that for everything, every sort of initiative or solution or problem we're trying to solve, Because it just wouldn't. It would seem in my area it's almost disrespectful and out of place to just swoop in and be like here's permaculture. Have you heard of this? What it's like? For millennia their ancestors have been doing, applying those principles, but in their own unique language and indigenous ways on this land that they know and they stand on their from. So, yeah, it's so important. I want to switch gears and ask my favorite question that I'm asking all my guests, which is if you could do one thing tomorrow to help as many decision makers and investors in Food and Ag develop their inner capacities towards our own mindset. What would you do?

Speaker 3:

I think, take responsibility. I think that's like the first mindset for everyone who wants to take that path is it's all start by personal responsibility. So if you're an investor, if you're building something, what you do counts. And if you take responsibility and you see a challenge and you're like I'm also part of that challenge, it's not the system, it's not the others. I'm also contributing to it. How can I change that and how can I make sure that my money, my time and my ideals go towards the right direction, to what my values are? Because everyone I meet has amazing values. We just don't live up anymore to them. So just about taking responsibility for that and taking the first step and say, okay, what do I value the most and where am I not living up to that then? And let's go that way.

Speaker 2:

So something that would trigger these people to take on that responsibility. And yeah, I think that I agree with you. There's been this at large, I feel, at least collective deterioration of even what values are. And coming back to that and I know, growing up and coming back to school, I remember in classes we did now that I think about, we did talk about what is character and how do you behave behind closed doors, how do you hold yourself and what integrity do you carry? And that's integrity. That's a word that you've mentioned at least once in our conversation and I love and is one of my own core values. So maybe that's an invitation for all of us to start. What even are our core three to five values? Where do I stand?

Speaker 3:

If any story about that. When I was probably 20, one of my friend called me out on my integrity and, if I'm honest, I love Google, so I Googled it. I was like what is actually integrity? And I never was thought even the word like what it means. I heard it by when I was 20, but actually I never was thought what was integrity officially? And I needed to Google it and I was like wait, you can live up your actions to the words. You say how amazing is that? And then you feel great inside of you. That sounds great. I want that. Yeah, I want that. That feels nice.

Speaker 3:

Because when you're out of integrity, you feel it. You know it's like this ache in the heart and your body and it doesn't feel good. And then you scare someone will find out that you're not. You know you're out of line and from that day that was, I think you know, when you were asking that aha moment of like something, that switch which starts a path. That was probably one of one of these. But I was like wow, there's this whole world which I can feel good inside of me because I live in integrity and that's the path I want to do, because it's not nice, not feeling good, wow what a moment.

Speaker 2:

I'm so glad you had that friend in your life who called you out on that and you turned to your friend, google, which would out owe you, love me, to give all the answers that we think we know, what we don't know and for sure you know. I hope you feel this way. It's so clear even in your energy and the way that you speak about all of these projects and the alignment, like it's all very connected and aligned from from a place that's much deeper than the rational mind. Thank you, so be proud of yourself.

Speaker 3:

Well done.

Speaker 2:

I'm so grateful personally for your work at a selfish level because while we've been speaking, I've been enjoying my cup of ceremonial cacao all the way from Guatemala, which is such a treat, and I think that's a great place for us to end on. So, laurence, thank you so much for all your time. Thank you to the birds in the background that we've been getting to hear as well. If that's not edited out and people get to hear yeah, thank you so much and good luck with all your many projects.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much and thanks for the time and even, yeah, like showing interest in what we do. I think that means a lot. We work every day and once in a while, when the work you do is seen, it just means, yeah, a lot of like wow, like okay, something is happening. So thank you so much for taking that time and wanting to hear that story and, yeah, your appreciation for cacao stories and what we do. I look forward to keep connecting with you, emma, of course.

Speaker 2:

I'm glad we could share the stories with many new ears of all the listeners today. So thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you. Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. For the show notes and links we discussed in this episode, check out our website investing in regenderagriculturecom. Forward slash posts. If you liked this episode, why not share it with a friend? Or give us a rating on Apple Podcasts? That really helps. Thanks again and see you next time.

Exploring the Regenerative Mind
The Regenerative Power of Kakao Source
Cocoa Sourcing
Cacao Farming and Women's Collective
Mindset in Food and Agriculture Systems
Empowering Women and Valuing Regenerative Agriculture
Diversifying Initiatives for Community Resilience