Tag Archives: cocoa farming future initiative

Cacao and Climate Change: Implications and Recommendations

At some point in our lives, we all hear Forrest Gump’s famous quote: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Climate change is no different. Mother Nature is currently harnessed by an increasingly volatile system that continues to alter our earth each and every day, and by failing to change our destructive ways, humans are allowing this force to perpetuate. According to NASA, average global temperature has increased by 1.7 percent since the late nineteenth century, and 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 (MacLennan). Additionally, carbon dioxide levels in the air are at the highest they have been in 650,000 years (MacLennan). Because all agricultural systems are sensitive to these changes, cacao and therefore chocolate are equally subject to adversity. Between the monstrous chocolate industry and diligent cacao farmers, countless constituents are at stake in this sensitive predicament. Given the escalating atmospheric constraints on cacao-growing regions due to the intensification of climate change, cacao farmers must carefully adapt while simultaneously seeking out responsible, innovative ways to keep the beloved cacao crop from becoming obsolete in the coming decades. 

Geographically, cacao can only grow within 20 degrees latitude both north and south of the equator, as illustrated by Figure 1 (Scott). As we learned from a course book, cacao trees flourish under strict conditions including high humidity, abundant rain, uniform temperatures, nitrogen-rich soil, and protection from the wind (Presilla 95). In short, cacao trees thrive in tropical rainforests. The vast majority of the world’s cacao is produced by smallholders, meaning those owning less than five acres of land (de Groot). Currently, there exist about two million smallholder farmers in West Africa alone, all of whom depend on cacao for their livelihoods (Schroth et al 231). Their vulnerability to climate change derives from the fact that they are predominately located in the tropics, but I strongly believe we should remain equally concerned by the various demographic, socioeconomic, and policy trends we discussed in class that hinder their capacity to adapt to change. The world’s leading producers are Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia, and research highlighted in a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that, under a “business as usual” scenario, those countries will experience a 3.8°F increase in temperature by 2050, which I suspect would connote a marked reduction in suitable cultivation area (Scott). 

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Figure 1. A geographical representation of the cacao belt, which spans across the equator.

Cacao will face a distinct challenge from the changing climate compared to that of many other crops. Coffee, for example, suffers direct harm from rising temperatures, but this paradigm alone won’t necessarily hinder cacao production (Jaramillo et al). Cacao cultivation areas in Malaysia, for instance, already endure a warmer climate than West Africa without any obvious negative effects (Scott). Upon briefly conversing with one of our guest lecturers after a guided tasting this semester, I learned that one of the greatest dangers to cacao arising from climate change is the increase in evapotranspiration, particularly given that higher temperatures projected for West Africa by 2050 are unlikely to be accompanied by an increase in rainfall (Scott). Evapotranspiration is the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere through both soil evaporation and plant transpiration (Handley). In other words, as higher temperatures coax more water from soil and plants, rainfall likely will not increase enough to offset the moisture loss. In order to avoid generalizing, one should note that this situation will not necessarily represent that of all cacao-growing regions; a study on a Nigerian research farm, for example, found that a combination of optimal temperature (84°F) and minimal rainfall (900 to 1000mm)—both less than the current yearly averages—would result in the best yields (Ojo et al 353). This mélange in the effects and remedies of climate change is a fantastic example of why farmers must adopt such a dynamic attitude moving forward.

As we approach 2050, rising temperatures will push the suitable cacao cultivation areas uphill. The optimal altitude for cacao cultivation in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, for example, is expected to rise from 350-800 feet to 1,500-1,600 feet above sea level (Scott). Generally, areas anticipated to show improved cultivation conditions look to be rugged, hilly terrain. But herein lies the problem: Ghana’s Atewa Range, for example, is a forest preserve where cultivation isn’t permitted, so inhabitants are left with the difficult choice of illegally gutting the forest to grow cacao in the name of global demand or preserving the natural habitat in which they live and losing their only source of income. Given that our class dedicated a substantial amount of time to discussing the already turbulent livelihoods of cacao farmers, I am troubled to see that they may soon face such an unfair quandary. One study examined nearly 300 locations in the world’s primary cacao-growing regions and found that only 10.5% showed increasing suitability for cacao production by 2050, while the remaining 89.5% showed the opposite (Scott). Figure 2 shows current suitability and projections for future conditions under a changing climate (Schroth et al 233):

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Figure 2. Maximum temperature of the warmest month under current and projected 2050 climate conditions in the West African cacao belt. The dotted area shows the extent of current cacao production as used for model calibration. The red lines show areas of cacao production.

The area depicted above is known as the West African cacao belt. Once entirely covered by the Nigerian lowland forests in the east and the Guinean lowland forests in the west, much of the area has now been converted to agriculture (Schroth et al 235). The world’s cacao industry depends largely on this belt for raw material due to the sheer volume of cacao produced as well as the abundance of high-quality bulk cacao that cannot be readily replaced by other cacao origins. As we learned in lecture, blended cacao typically goes to large industrial producers (unlike exclusive-derivation cacao, which exemplifies the traits of terroir through individual nuances), so this region is undeniably crucial to the future success of the large chocolate industry. Climate change aside, production in this region faces a wide variety of challenges, all of which we addressed in lecture: most trees are over-aged and therefore unproductive in the already small farms; low prices—until the recent price inflation—and variability make it difficult for farmers to afford costly inputs such as fertilizers; absence or insufficiency of technical assistance in most countries make maintenance difficult (Schroth et al 236). Perhaps while addressing climate change, whether internally or through foreign aid, actors should undertake these challenges alongside those directly associated with climate change itself.

Due in part to the aforementioned adversities, cacao farming has been a major driver of deforestation in West Africa, most notably in Côte d’Ivoire. Historically, cacao has been a “pioneer crop” grown after forest clearing, meaning that rather than replanting aging plantations, farmers have typically opted to migrate to the forest frontiers to establish new cacao farms. During the second half of the twentieth century, the cacao frontier moved from the drier east to the wetter southwest of the country, a migration fueled by massive immigration of prospective cacao farmers from the savannah (Ruf et al 101). From my perspective, it appears that the climate gradient was a major driver of these east-west migrations and that, by replacing forest with farmland over vast areas, cacao farmers contributed to the further drying of the climate in what appears to be a positive feedback loop. This is precisely the type of damage we as a civilization must avoid in the coming decades. In order to help facilitate a greater awareness of sustainability, governments and supply chain actors should discourage forest frontier dynamics by helping farmers adapt to environmental change through more intensive and diversified farming practices.

The question of whether water availability or maximum temperatures during the dry season will be more limiting to the survival, growth, and yield of cacao trees in a future climate is of particular importance when considering the design of climate resilient production systems. One highly efficient—and, in my opinion, the only practical—method of protecting cacao trees from high temperatures is through overhead shade from appropriately selected, spaced, and managed companion trees such as banana and plantain as seen in Figure 3 (Colina). This practice can reduce cacao leaf temperatures by up to 40°F, sequester carbon that would otherwise be lost from the soil, make cacao trees less vulnerable to pests, and provide nutrient-rich leaf litter as well as protection from wind and soil erosion (Rajab et al). With that said, adequate ventilation is also important as a complementary measure, as it helps to reduce the prevalence of fungal disease in cacao (Schroth et al 240). The general takeaway here is that farmers need to be properly trained such that they can correctly execute these methods.

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Figure 3. Young cacao plants in a nursery under shade trees in Mindanao, Philippines.

When considering shadow crops such as those pictured above, we must recognize that an expectation of severe water limitation during the dry season may complicate things. Under such conditions, there could eventually not be enough water available for both cacao and shade trees during the dry season, thereby stressing the trees and leaving farmers in a tough position. Although I feel this is an unlikely extreme, we should prepare for all possibilities. Temperature struggles aside, another mitigation strategy could be to provide cacao growers with selectively bred seeds that have superior drought resistance. Farmers could, however, be skeptical of genetically modified seeds given the stereotypically low trust between farmers and large agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto. While I am not sure how feasible this final point is given my unfamiliarity with the growing techniques behind these commodities, it may be beneficial for cacao farmers to raise animals or cultivate honey in order to spread climate risk (de Groot). In general, climate-smart agriculture—an approach that combines various sustainable methods under a climate-change umbrella—that assesses climate change-related risks and requirements of a farm and subsequently tackles those challenges using practices crafted for that particular situation is key to success in the coming decades.

In our class, we discussed industrial chocolate production as well as consumption, both practices that are generally decoupled from on-farm production. Fortunately, industrial chocolate corporations have a large incentive to help with damage control and mitigation. MARS is a fantastic example of corporate initiative: the company plans to slash carbon pollution from its products by 67 percent come mid-century (Simon). This includes reducing emissions from land use changes and agriculture, and the company has even gone a step further by offering resources to help farmers increase yields, though they don’t disclose any specifics (Simon). The five global titans of chocolate—Ferrero, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle, and Mars—should work together with consumers and defy the ugly “Big Sugar” stereotype considering we all share a common enemy: climate change. In terms of consumers themselves, our research from class suggests that people should seek out responsible, sustainable companies that give fair treatment to farmers. Whole Foods and other specialty stores, for example, boast a great selection of fair trade and organic bars such as Taza, Chuao, and Endangered Species. Consumers who have already caught wind of the possible “cacao crisis” are understandably uneasy, but they’ll be happy to know that research suggests climate change will not have an effect on the taste of cacao—that is, assuming the crop isn’t wiped out entirely (Sukha et al 255). For further information, videos such as the following can help to spell things out in a more informative and empowering way:

Realistically, we simply have no way of accurately predicting what the future climate will look like. With that said, the cacao belt appears to have a strong differentiation of climate vulnerability across its latitudinal axis, with the most susceptible areas near the forest-savanna transition in eastern Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, and the least vulnerable areas in the southern parts of Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Cameroon. Farmers will face the challenging task of controlling as many factors as possible in a progressively erratic world, so I recommend they look towards specialized companies such as The Climate Corporation—a digital agriculture company that examines weather, soil, and field data to help farmers determine potential yield-limiting factors on their fields—while employing the many protective measures mentioned above. Moving forward will require a team effort that ranges across the chocolate production and consumption chains, but because most changes in climatic suitability are predicted to take place over a time period of nearly 40 years, we have a full generation of cacao trees and farmers to adapt.

So, who will win the fight: climate or chocolate? Let’s not leave it to chance.

 

Works Cited: 

Anga, Jean-Marc. “International Cacao Organization.” The International Cacao Organization; Cacao Producing and Cacao Consuming Countries, ICCO, May 2018.

Bunn, Christian, and Mark Lundy. “Bittersweet Chocolate: The Climate Change Impacts on Cacao Production in Ghana.” CGIAR Research Program, 2015.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., vol. 1, Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Colina, Antonio. “Cacao Developemnt in Davao Region.” Davao Integrated Development Program, 2014.

de Groot, Han. “Preparing Cacao Farmers for Climate Change.” Rainforest Alliance, EarthShare, 20 Sept. 2017.

Handley, Liam. “The Effects of Climate Change on the Reproductive Development of Theobroma Cacao.” ProQuest, vol. 1, no. 1, 2016.

Jaramillo, Juliana, and Eric Muchugu. “Some Like It Hot: The Influence and Implications of Climate Change on Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus Hampei) and Coffee Production in East Africa.” PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 9, 14 Sept. 2011.

MacLennan, David W. “Our Changing Climate.” Our Changing Climate: Supporting Farmers to be Resilient in the Face of Changing Weather Patterns, Cargill, 2018.

Morton, J. F. “The Impact of Climate Change on Smallholder and Subsistence Agriculture.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 50, 11 Dec. 2007, pp. 19680–19685.

Ojo, A.D., and I. Sadiq. “Effect of Climate Change on Cacao Yield: a Case of Cacao Research Institute (CRIN) Farm, Oluyole Local Government Ibadan Oyo State.” CABI , vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 350–358. CAB Direct.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. 2nd ed., vol. 1, Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Rajab, Yasmin Abou, and Christoph Leuschner. “Cacao Cultivation under Diverse Shade Tree Cover Allows High Carbon Storage and Sequestration without Yield Losses.” PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 2, 29 Feb. 2016.

Ruf, François, et al. “Climate Change, Cacao Migrations and Deforestation in West Africa: What Does the Past Tell us about the Future?” Sustainability Science, vol. 10, no. 1, 18 Nov. 2014, pp. 101–111.

Schroth, Götz, and Christian Bunn. “Vulnerability to Climate Change of Cacao in West Africa: Patterns, Opportunities and Limits to Adaptation.” Science of The Total Environment, vol. 556, 15 June 2016, pp. 231–241. ELSEVIER.

Scott, Michon. “Climate and Chocolate .” Climate.gov, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10 Feb. 2016.

Simon, Rosie. “Climate Change Could Hurt Chocolate Production.” Yale Climate Connections, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 19 Oct. 2017.

Stroman, Lee. “Rethinking the Cacao Supply Chain.” AgThentic, Medium Corporation, 16 July 2017.

Sukha, D.a., and D.r. Butler. “The Impact Of Processing Location And Growing Environment On Flavor In Cacao (Theobroma Cacao L.); Implications For ‘Terroir’ and Certification.” Acta Horticulture, no. 1047, 2014, pp. 255–262. ISHS.

L.A. Burdick: A Sweet Idea

Larry Burdick was in his twenties working as a pastry chef in New York when he first traveled to Paris and later to Switzerland to train as a chocolatier in the 1970s and 80s (Gilles, 2014). During his time in Switzerland, Burdick was inspired to begin his own chocolate business, which he opened in 1987 in New York City. Since that time, Burdick’s has expanded to four storefront locations and relocated its headquarters to Walpole, New Hampshire. In the following post, I will explore the values L.A. Burdick aspires to uphold, Burdick’s bean to bar venture which leads to much of its success by allowing it to oversee its production process, and the ways in which the company has given back to local communities overseas. I will analyze Burdick’s goals and endeavors in the context of the chocolate industry locally and abroad.

BURDICK’S HISTORY

In the mid-1980s, Larry discovered “in a confiserie the heady aroma of pure chocolate and hand-made delicacies” that inspired him to open his own business, L.A. Burdick’s website recounts (L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates). Burdick returned to the United States with a chocolate pot, guitars for cutting shapes, and dipping forks. Upon his arrival, he and his wife, Paula, co-founded a small chocolate business. Paula’s background in design and style – acquired through her education at the Fashion Institute of Technology – guided her in creating glamorous chocolate products which could be enjoyed in an “ambiance of relaxed elegance” (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates).

When the couple launched its company, they made chocolates out of their home in Brooklyn, but they soon moved to New Hampshire to expand their facilities and staff. This Walpole location remains the home base of the Burdick mail and online shipping business, and its chocolate and pastry production. Larry and Paula chose to start their business in Walpole when Larry was driving up Interstate 91 from Brooklyn, “looking for a good place to raise his family and his business” (Tree, 2008). Larry bought a store on Main Street in Walpole and turned it into a chocolate factory with a storefront café and space for filling mail orders. Adjoining the chocolate store is Walpole Grocery and the Restaurant at Burdick’s, “which presents quality ingredients, an imaginative menu and impeccable service along with a distinctive wine list” (Burdick Catalog, 2012).

This Walpole venture kept the Burdicks busy for the first decade of their success, and its popularity spread as a result of the 1996 Consumer Reports which rated L.A. Burdick chocolates the best in the country (Tree, 2008). In 1999, L.A. Burdick opened in Cambridge, followed by a storefront in Manhattan in 2010. In 2012, the fourth and final location opened in Boston’s Back Bay. Today, the L.A. Burdick chocolate business includes retail chocolate shops in Boston, Cambridge, New York City, and Walpole, a French-inspired restaurant, and a small specialty grocery store (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates).

BUSINESS AS A CHOCOLATIER

Bonbons_Overhead
Chocolate bonbons (http://www.burdickchocolate.com/BonbonAssortments/everyday-assortments.aspx)
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Burdick’s signature chocolate mice (http://www.burdickchocolate.com/ChocolateMiceandPenguins/chocolate-mice.aspx)

Much of Burdick’s popularity is tied to its famously created bonbons (above, top). Other signature items include truffles and chocolate mice (above, bottom). Even more notable is the fact that “every double-caramel bonbon, white chocolate-coated, spiced mousse mouse, and beautifully wrapped, wooden gift box of truffles is made by hand,” according to a 2015 YouTube advertisement video. While Burdick’s chocolate production processes take place overseas in its Grenada factory, the bonbons, truffles, and chocolate delicacies are all made in Walpole. The YouTube video serves as a promotion effort for its Manhattan location, “a café counter where you can get coffee, pastries, and chocolate to take away,” an employee explained in the video. Customers who enter the storefront can sit at tables to enjoy their purchases, socialize over a cup of coffee, or buy baking items, chocolates, and chocolate bars to take with them. “Even if you don’t see the person who receives it, when you put together a basket or box of chocolates and you know it’s going to someone who will really appreciate it, that’s the best part of it. It’s knowing at the end of the day that you work somewhere that makes people happy. People are happy to come in here and people are happy to receive our gifts,” the employee shared in the YouTube video.

This luxurious experience is quickly appreciated when one enters the restaurant. Upon walking into Burdick’s (on April 27, 2016) to observe the storefront in Cambridge, I noted how its customers were able to consume chocolate in an elegant manner; the eating experience was purposefully created through the design of the products, their packaging, and the sophisticated setting of the coffee shop. The Burdick’s location I observed is situated in a wealthy area – the heart of Harvard Square neighboring expensive real estate property – which enables the company to sell high priced chocolate bars, drinks, and desserts because its customers can afford and are wiling to pay for these items to enjoy their taste and the Burdick’s experience.

Further, it must be acknowledged that L.A. Burdick is a chocolatier, which means the company “uses fine chocolate produced by chocolate manufacturers/makers to create unique chocolate products and confectionary” (Martin, “Lecture 5”). Susan Terrio explores the craft community of French chocolatiers in her 2000 Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. She writes about walking into a French chocolaterie as her eyes glossed over the assortment of offerings: “their size, aesthetic display, and evocative names suggested radically different symbolic meanings and social uses than the – dare I admit it – chocolate bars I purchased at home” (Terrio, 2000: page 2).

Burdick’s success within the chocolate industry can be linked more closely to its place as a chocolatier, rather than as a chocolate maker. Terrio writes “when one considers artisanship as a cultural category, it is clear that chocolatiers possess an intermediate, highly ambivalent class position and social status” (Terrio, 2000: page 12). A chocolate maker creates chocolate from cocoa beans; a chocolatier’s role is more romanticized and profitable. Burdick’s chocolate production processes take place overseas in its factory in Grenada, which I will investigate in the following section.

SOURCING

When Larry and Paula set out on what would become a successful business endeavor, they selected Grenada to acquire the majority of their chocolate. “Long known as the ‘Spice Isle,’ the nation of Grenada is one of the world’s largest mace and nutmeg exporters…Grenadian cocoa portrays characteristics unlike cocoa from any other growing region. A robust chocolate, it has an uncommon, bright forefront acidity with long-lasting finishing notes of nutmeg, banana, and molasses” (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, The Cocoa Isle). Despite the appealing fragrance of Grenadian cocoa, it makes up less than 0.01 percent of the world’s cocoa supply (Ellman, 2014).

The entirety of Burdick’s chocolate production is completed within its factory, making it a “cocoa bean to chocolate bar” venture (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, The Cocoa Isle). This process includes harvesting, fermenting, sorting, drying, roasting, and conching. Burdick’s purchases and processes beans from farmers at its Grenada factory to sell at its stores and to other high-end chocolate makers. These efforts have led to the success of Burdick’s through ethical practices in contrast to other large companies which cannot oversee their overseas sources. Carol Off writes about the use of forced labor in Cote D’Ivoire, arguing that “almost every critic of the industry has identified the key problem: poverty among the primary producers.” She suggests that an end to the practice could be achieved if cocoa companies “simply undertake to make sure the farmers received a decent price for their beans” (Off, 2010: page 146). By overseeing the entire process of chocolate production, Burdick’s ensures its farmers are both well-paid and well-educated by “opening a chocolate factory that could ship single-origins bars to commercial outlets across the globe” (Smith, 2015).

Another advantage of bean to bar production is that it encourages farmers and workers to produce high quality chocolate because they care about the goods they will send back to the United States. Together, the structure of Burdick’s sourcing makes “cocoa farming more profitable, keeps the unique Grenadian cocoa legacy alive for future generations, provides L.A. Burdick Chocolate with an excellent couverture for our bonbons and enriches the palates of chocolate gourmands everywhere” (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, The Cocoa Isle). The concept of bean-to-bar has become popular in the United States; there are over 150 craft chocolate makers who oversee the various parts of the production process, like Burdick does, ensuring their standards are met while improving their relationship with the source (Martin, “Lecture 13”).

Pam Williams and Jim Eber’s Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate investigates how the industry of fine flavor chocolate has recently evolved and will continue to do so in the future due to its growing popularity and the public interest in sustainable and just practices. In examining the impact of efforts in newer markets, “it is about helping farmers understand that what they do affects the end product – how what they do with harvest and fermentation and drying stages is so critical” (Williams and Eber, 2012: page 51). Thus, Burdick’s helps the farmers who produce its chocolate witness the connection between their efforts and the finished products, creating a sense of pride in their work.

Williams and Eber acknowledge that small US manufacturers “have been driving the recent changes for the better in the industry: Change the world – make better chocolate. They pride themselves on direct and transparent trade, paying top dollar for the best beans, speaking out against forced labor, investing in education, and making chocolate that tastes nothing like the multinational mass-market brands” (Williams and Eber, 2012: page 156). While most of those chocolatiers in the United States are forced to rely on specialty stores, groceries, and to online markets for profitable sales, “more and more of them are also building their success in what might be called a very European way: targeting their local communities at markets, events, and their own retail locations and combining that with a factory tour and tasting experience” (Williams and Eber, 2012: page 156). Perhaps as a result of Larry’s training and chocolate education abroad, Burdick’s has focused its success into efforts in Grenada (alongside many of these small manufacturers).

Burdick’s website emphasizes the relationship the company has with Grenada, which I will delve into in the following section. However, upon walking into the storefront, I noticed that they sold various single origin chocolate bars from different sources. The bars, priced between $8 to $13, are from Chuao, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Madagascar, Venezuela, and Ecuador. I was surprised that the website did not describe any relationship between Burdick’s and these other single origin sites given its unique arrangement with Grenada.

GIVING BACK

The Burdicks’ relationship with the Grenada Cocoa Association began in 1999, when they requested one hundred bags of dry cocoa beans for their only L.A. Burdick store at the time. “Our continuous search for superlative quality, full-flavored chocolate has led us to Grenada…the lush mountain terrain and volcanic soil host a bounty of heady tropical flowers, fruit and nut trees and scattered amongst them – cocoa trees” (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, Cocoa Journey). However, shortly after, Larry and Paula set out to work with the farmers themselves to eventually establish the Cocoa Farming Future Initiative (CFFI) in Grenada.

By 2001, the Burdicks were traveling to work on this fair trade project in Grenada themselves. However, it was not until 2011 that Paula founded the non-profit CFFI. In 2004 and 2005, hurricanes across Grenada created serious setbacks to the Burdicks’ endeavors, according to the CFFI website. Once farming stabilized, the Burdicks “began working with the island’s cocoa farmers to help them reclaim their lands, improve their crops’ quality and value, and create value-added businesses that will increase and diversify their incomes – all of which support the preservation of this unique tropical ecosystem” (CFFI – Cocoa Farming Future Initiative, About CFFI). Paula also began an educational nonprofit to teach cocoa farmers sustainable farming methods and to help them manage the economic conditions that accompany working as a cocoa farmer.

New Hampshire’s EIV News released a YouTube video highlighting the Burdicks’ work in Grenada in 2012. “The project has created a lot of interest on the island of Grenada. The farmers are excited about the project. I think it’s encouraged people to stay in cocoa farming,” Larry said in the video interview. By partnering with Grenadian cocoa farmers to build a factory on the island, “this helps decrease cost of shipping overseas, and puts more money in farmers’ pockets [since the middle man is cut out]. When you add that fine cocoa to the island’s ecosystem – the terrior, the organic soil, the plant life that grows on the island – you have a special flavor in the beans” (Smith, 2012). By establishing this model in Grenada, the farmers have been exposed to organic farming practices and are able to “realize the benefits of value-added processing” (Pienda, 2016).

Furthermore, Burdick’s refuses to use cacao produced by child labor. In contrast to larger companies far removed from their chocolate source, Burdick’s supervision of chocolate production from bean to bar mandates just practices. Though the Fair Trade certification theoretically demands that companies engage in fair practices, critics of the initiative suggest that the marketing system is difficult to monitor, and fails to ensure standards are met (Sylla, 2014). Sylla argues “Fair Trade is but the most recent example of another sophisticated ‘scam’ by the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market” (Sylla, 2014: page 18). The Fair Trade movement has also been criticized for being used to expand the consumer base and appeal of certain brands of chocolate rather than focusing on improving the work of farmers themselves. Instead of depending on a certification, Burdick’s takes pride in the origin of its chocolate through its bean-to-bar venture.

CONCLUSIONS

Through an investigation of L.A. Burdick Chocolate, I have presented the evolution and expansion of a chocolate business that started in Walpole, New Hampshire less than three decades ago. While one must acknowledge that Burdick’s is a chocolatier, allowing the company to more easily be profitable, I argue that the success of the business is at least in part due to its maintenance of all parts of the chocolate production process. Further, Burdick’s has used its success to give back to the island of Grenada by founding the Cocoa Farming Futures Initiative, creating jobs in its sourcing community, and educating farmers on sustainable practices.

References

“Burdick Catalog.” L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolate (2012): n. pag. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

“CFFI – Cocoa Farming Future Initiative – Raising Funds and Awareness for Grenada Cocoa Farmers.” CFFI – Cocoa Farming Future Initiative. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Gilles, Gaelle. “L.A. Burdick Makes Delicious Homemade Chocolate.” DOWNTOWN Magazine. DOWNTOWN Magazine NYC, Inc. 25 July 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Ellman, Lloyd. “Crop-to-Cup Cocoa: L.A. Burdick Offers a Liquid Tour of the World’s Premier Producers | Edible Manhattan.”Edible Manhattan. N.p., 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 02 May 2016.

L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates, Company History, L.A. Burdick Chocolate. April 27, 2016, http://www.burdickchocolate.com/company-history.aspx

L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates, Company Today, L.A. Burdick Chocolate. April 27, 2016, http://www.burdickchocolate.com/company-history.aspx

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 5: Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium S010, Cambridge. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 13: Haute Patisserie, Artisan Chocolate, and Food Justice: the Future?” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium S010, Cambridge. Lecture.

Manhattan Sideways. “LA BURDICK.” YouTube. YouTube, 14 June 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. Vintage Canada, 2010.

Pienda, Melanie. “Burdick Clears the Air on Rumors of Walpole Chocolate Company Sale.” SentinelSource.com. N.p., 5 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Smith, Courtney. “L.A. Burdick Chocolate’s Grenada Project.” YouTube. YouTube, 26 Mar. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Smith, Zoe. “New Grenada Chocolate Company Offers Youth a Future in Agriculture – Grenada 40.” Grenada 40. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Sylla, Ndongo. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.

Terrio, Susan J. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. University of California Press, 2000.

Tree, Christina. “Burdick Lure Works in New Hampshire, Too.” Boston Globe. N.p., 5 Oct. 2008. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Williams, Pam, and Jim Eber. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Wilmor Pub., 2012.