Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Christmas Fair with a Difference

Starting tomorrow, CFFI will have a booth at the Christmas Fair with a Difference in Hanover, New Hampshire.  Dorise and Marietta will be selling handmade Grenadian crafts, jewelry, soaps, spices and delicious treats.  All of the proceeds will go toward our programs in Grenada.

To learn more about our crafts programs, read our recent blog updates here, here and here.

Fair Schedule:
Thursday, November 6th: 10am - 6pm
Friday, November 7th: 10am - 6pm
Saturday, November 8th: 10am - 1pm

The fair is a great opportunity to learn about non-profits in your community, support important work and get ahead on unique and meaningful christmas presents.  Click here for directions to the fair, or check out their Facebook page to get a preview of items that will be for sale.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Guardian's coverage of Empowering Smallholder Farmers

Smallholder farmers are increasingly in the news and international discourse because of the critical role they play in food security and sustainability.  The Guardian recently published a photo-series entitled "Empowering Smallholder Farmers for a Sustainable Future." With the knowledge that over 30 million smallholder farmers produce the majority of the world's cocoa and coffee, the Guardian lists important steps that will empower such farmers.

Cocoa drying at the cocoa station in Diamond, Grenada

Consistent with the efforts of CFFI, the author stresses the importance of increasing farmers' voice and emphasizes training in sustainable agriculture. CFFI is proud to be among other international organizations working toward these goals.  In particular we are working hard to offer more training workshops on the farm and establish a communication network for farmers.

With improved communication, organization and access to organic markets, Grenadian farmers will be in a better position to ensure fair prices and advocate for themselves.

Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Buy a Cocoa Tree" Campaign

Because of last year's success we are promoting the "Buy a Cocoa Tree" campaign again this year - but with a little bonus offer for you! A Grenada Gift Basket from L.A. Burdick's Cocoa Isle Collection will be awarded to the three individuals or companies that donate the most trees. This is a timely campaign as it is the rainy season in Grenada and the ideal time to plant new cocoa trees.  Buying these young cocoa trees will help keep production alive - great chocolate is only as good as the cocoa beans from which it is derived.

This campaign is in partnership with L.A. Burdick Chocolate, who are committed to helping CFFI support the small cocoa farmers and the fragile ecosystem in which they work.

For more information, visit  Please click the "Donate" tab to purchase your trees today!  Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Putting a Donated Sewing Machine to Good Use

Thanks to a sewing machine generously donated by Tanya in New Hampshire, CFFI has expanded our crafts again!  We’re continuing to work with the African textiles Dorise collected from a trip to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. 

Textiles from Trinidad
Rita Julien, who also makes beautiful recycled plastic bags for CFFI, is working full-time on the sewing machine and is currently making a variety of beautiful shoulder bags.

Rita working on the sewing machine


Drilling Eastern Carib coins for buttons

In addition to these bags, we will continue making napkins as well as baby carrier wraps! Thanks Tanya for your generous support as we continue to train local women in crafts.

Making pockets for shoulder bags

Monday, August 25, 2014

Protecting Grenada's genetic diversity tastes great

This past week we were joined on the farm by leading cocoa experts from the Grenada Cocoa Association.  Together the team grafted 37 cocoa trees with criollo cocoa samples from a genetic preservation nursery near Grenville, Grenada.  We cut small pieces of branches and buds from three different types of criollo trees and transported them to our land to graft onto recently planted young trees.  If the grafts are successful, these trees will start to produce criollo pods from these branches.

Representatives from the Grenada Cocoa Association grafting on our farm

Criollo cocoa is world renowned for having the best flavor. It is very rare because it does not have the pest resistance or high yield of more hearty varieties.  Often compared to the superior Arabica coffee beans, it is well known for having complex caramel, nut, vanilla and tobacco flavor notes.  We didn’t believe our Jouvay chocolate could get any better, but we’re taking on the challenge to care for these rare trees to increase flavor bean production, and protect the genetic diversity of Grenada’s cocoa heritage.  Many farmers who rely on cocoa for their income are simply not able to take the risk with criollo trees and typically use crossbreeds, making criollo beans less than 1% of the world’s cocoa supply.  We are happy to have the opportunity to continue to preserve these beans, and think our chocolate customers will be happy too!

Scions need to be kept moist and clean to prevent drying and bacteria

Based on the size of the small trees, we focused on top grafts.  We also did a few bud and side grafts, as well as experiment with grafting on mature trees that are no longer producing as much.  As mentioned, grafting is a very delicate art, and grafting out in the field adds to the risks. Everything must be properly sanitized and done quickly so as not to introduce any bacteria to the cocoa plants. 

Taping a top graft to ensure key pieces connect and to prevent moisture and bacteria from entering

In two weeks we will remove the plastic bags (which keep moisture out and protect the graft from harsh weather).  In two more weeks, we will remove the tape and continue to monitor our trees to make sure they survive.

Completed top-graft using ICS 32, the purest variety of criollo in Grenada.
Check out our Facebook page to watch cocoa extension officer, Kelwin Noel demonstrate a top-graft:

Monday, August 18, 2014

We're Becoming Worm Farmers

Thanks to our composting intern, Alexander Thompson, we now have two vermiculture bins on the land!  These bins are unique for Grenada and we are excited to promote vermicomposting to local farmers.

Worm composting bins on our cocoa farm

What is vermicompost?
Vermiculture is worm farming!  Vermicompost is a composting system that cultivates a large worm population within the compost.  Worms help break down the materials quicker, aerate the soil and turn the compost into rich organic matter. 

Why use vermiculture?
The water run off (“worm tea”) and final compost (worm castings) generated from the vermicompost bins are one of the most nutritious and beneficial fertilizers available. This compost has significantly higher beneficial microorganisms and bacteria, and is considered a perfect organic fertilizer. Farmers can save a considerable amount of money on fertilizers and avoid putting harmful chemicals into their soil.

Benefits of worm farming:
  • Aerates soil
  • Increases plant growth and yield
  • Reduces waste going to landfills
  • Replaces chemical fertilizers
  • Improves root growth
  • Provides worms for fish bait or chicken feed
  • Protects plants from disease 

Our bins:
Our two worm bins were made inexpensively, with materials accessible in our community.  Our goal is to demonstrate vermiculture as a beneficial practice any farmer here could adopt. Once the bins are made, they are easy to maintain. Our staff adds partially broken down compost and moistens the soil every few days, and the worms do the rest of the work! Water that drips down to the bottom bucket – "worm tea" - is diluted and used to water our vegetables. It is extremely nutritious, and helps protect plants against diseases. After a few weeks, the broken down compost can be removed from the bin, and used to fertilizer cocoa trees and vegetables, or boost our regular composting system.  New decomposing material is added to the bin and the hungry worms gravitate to the new material.

Our worms:

Our worms were collected during an expedition to collect seaweed for our extensive composting system.  These worms don’t grow to be as large as traditional earthworms, but are aggressive composters and native to Grenada.

Worms from CFFI vermiculture bins

We're excited about this new addition on our farm and can't wait to try out the fertilizer when its ready!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

CFFI is Proud of all it's Interns

It is coming onto a full year that I have been in Grenada. We are making strides in many areas of cocoa farming i.e. grafting, composting, crafts for raising money... but the one I love the most is our ever-growing Intern Program. We have had some wonderful, hardworking young people come through our door this past year and bring so much knowledge and hard work to our cause. As you can see below I have cause to be so proud... 

Alexander Thompson
The University of Alabama                                                                             
Bachelor of Science, Biology, Honors College
Alexander Thompson has just arrived in Grenada for three months to focus on composting.  Because of Alexander's interest in nutrition and community gardening he feels his work here will compliment and expand his knowledge when he returns home to pursue a Master's Degree in Public Health.
With the help of our local Board Director, Troy Augustine, Alexander is off to a great start.  We have orders from farmers for 5, 10, and 20 bags of our compost. Now our only problem is getting some for our own cocoa trees (but this is a good problem).
Alexander and Troy are also working on a vermiculite project. They found loads of worms making compost in the sand while we were collecting seaweed. More to come on this in the next blog post.
Alexander will be keeping you updated on all his work during the next three months.

Jake Burdick
Jake was with us for three months, you may have seen him in previous blogs, working on the cocoa farm, building the "bottle" shed and doing some pruning. He had a great time hanging out with the local guys playing soccer and having a beer or two at Shy's Bar See Google Maps
We are proud to see him back in the states representing New Hampshire and Burdick Chocolates in Washington DC. You can see him in this video still tanned from the sun here in Grenada!

Marietta & Jake Burdick with Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Gideon Lovell-Smith
Gideon was with us for a month while on a gap year. He was up early every morning working hard on the cocoa farm, helping with grafting cocoa and becoming a pro with the machete! He made friends everywhere he went and locals are still asking after him. When Gideon wasn't working he could be found at the local beach, riding waves, exploring the sea life or playing soccer. Directly after Grenada he headed to China and had quite an experience there. At the end of this summer he will be attending  The University of Edinburgh. We wish him luck and want to thank him for all his hard work.
Gideon clearing fields for future cocoa trees
Lucienne Cross
Last but by no means least - Lucy was our first intern and set the bar very high for what we expect from our interns. Lucy was great at working on the farm, grafting, giving directions, posting on the blog and in addition having a great time with neighbors and friends here in the small town of Victoria. We were so taken with Lucy that we asked her to be on our Board of Directors and she graciously accepted. She is writing grants as we speak in hopes of being back down here soon.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

If you live in a glass house...

Thanks to Anthony “Wiz” Louis from the Diamond Chocolate Factory team, we’ve been working overtime to construct the tool shed for CFFI tools.  Through her determination and local contacts, Dorise was able to recycle close to 1,000 glass bottles from April’s St. Marks Day festivities to make our building a beautiful, sustainable work of art.  

Wiz building a glass bottle wall from Stag an Carib beer bottles.

Using YouTube videos as a reference, we constructed the tool shed walls out of glass bottles and mortar – to the amazement of our staff and neighbors.  The bottles not only look great, but they let sunlight into the tool shed.  

Indie and English from the factory helped clean up the wall.

Each side of the shed has a unique design. 
The second side of the shed used Campari and local rum bottles.

We're excited to announce that the Grenada Organic Agriculture Movement (GOAM) came to visit our farm to observe our compost system.  They were very excited by our work, and eager to collaborate in the future, including encouraging other farmers to adopt the same system.  

Troy Augustine explains our compost system to Angela Gomez from GOAM

Troy and Kimon demonstrate our sieve - the final step.
Some of our final compost product!

We also did the first turn of the new compost system and created the newest heap.  It was hard work, and took most of the day.  Our new heap uses local materials:

  • Donkey manure from a local organic farmer
  • Kitchen scraps from our neighbors at the nursing home
  • Weeds cleared from the land
  • Cardboard from recycled boxes of glass liquor bottles (for the wall!)
  • Coffee grinds from The Victory Bar and Restaurant at Port Louis Marina in St. Georges
  • Ground chocolate husks from the Diamond Chocolate Factory
Cocoa husks from the chocolate factory. Were working to create sustainable systems!
After the turn, we ended up with a container of ready-to-use compost.  We’re looking forward to expanding our vegetable beds and using this first round of compost here on the land.  The finished compost looks great – just ask the tree seedlings and earthworms that have already made it their home! 

Thanks again to Troy Augustine from the Ministry of Agriculture for his dedication and guidance.

After hard work collecting the materials, Dorise constructed the first bamboo panel stall in the cellar of the factory.  This wall will eventually be used as a model to construct multiple walls and stalls to use as working and display stations.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Great Ways to Support CFFI in Honor of Mom

If you can make it to Niagara Falls this weekend-you can have fun while supporting CFFI! This long standing race adds a touch of whimsy while you're working out! And what makes this race extra special is that part of the proceeds will be donated to CFFI. Dorise and I will be there so if you make it please come and introduce yourself.

We added this Mother's Day Basket filled with Grenada products (CFFI receives 10% of each sale) to the email blast and I am happy to report that Burdick's has sold a a lot of them! There is still time if you want to order one - they're not just for Moms!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Making Strides on CFFI Projects!

Here at CFFI we’ve been making huge strides on some of projects!

Organic composting on the farm:
Thanks to the guidance of local organic agriculture expert Troy Augustine, we re-vamped our composting system. We now have a series of accessible bins with compost at 3-5 different stages of decomposition. The compost looks great and has been recording temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  The sequential bins are a great visual demonstration of the stages of compost.  

Compost will be turned every three weeks, and a new bin created each time.

A huge shipment of beautiful, handmade crafts returned to the US with Paula for sale at L.A. Burdick stores. A second shipment is returning in May with Dorise!

New hand-painted placemats and napkins!
Dorise continues to train our official CFFI craft employees, Trisha and Donna.  She is currently working on transforming the cellar of the factory into a creative space for making and displaying crafts.

Dorise is also constantly finding remarkably talented Grenadians and supporting their own craftwork.   We recently attended a Rastafari celebration hosted by I-Free, a Grenadian famous for his work with natural weaving.  

Hand woven, one-of-a-kind bag from I-Free
In addition to I-Free, Dorise works with a number of talented weavers who make cocoa baskets that were traditionally used to harvest and hold cocoa pods on farmers’ heads.

Traditional cocoa harvesting baskets.
We have been grafting cocoa trees at Maran Nursery nearly every week.  We are practicing side, top and micrografting and working with Nigel Gibbs from the Ministry of Agriculture to perfect our technique.  Grafting is all about timing and precision!

Our new tool shed:
Our team has been working hard this past week to build a tool shed by the farm.  

We’re recycling bottles from this weekend’s St. Marks Day Festivities and building glass bottle walls.  We’re excited to try this innovative and green method of building.  Stay tuned to see how it looks!