If I were to describe the year for Roots Chocolates in 2014, it would be "Amazing!" So I thought I would sum things up in one blog post.
In April, we traveled to Nicaragua to visit the cacao farms where I get some of my beans from. While April isn't the prime for cacao bean harvest, there was plenty to see and do. April is also the beginning of Nicaragua's summer....which equals hot!
We visited four cocoa farms total. All of which left a lasting impression of the kind families willing to show us around and answer the plethora of questions. If you don't know much about cacao, here is a good article about it. Suffice it to say, these trees were growing in their beautiful, natural, organic environment. No GMO's!
Most of our time was spent at Giff's farm where the farmers brought their beans by bus, truck and horse! The beans were weighed (for payment), then put in the the 3'x3' fermentation bins to ferment for 3-5 days. We tested the beans by cutting them in half and judging the taste and color. When the beans were perfectly fermented, we moved them on to the drying area.
The beans dried in a minimally covered area. We stirred them every 30 minutes to an hour to make sure they dried evenly. Drying time varies, but in the heat of the summer when we were there, they were ready in a few days to bag for shipment.
It was a great year of Farmers Markets. People some times wonder why they see chocolates at a Farmers Market. Because I'm a farmer and grow things on the farm that are infused in to the chocolates, I feel it's the right place to sell them. It gives me the opportunity to speak with customers about why Roots Chocolates are different. Besides, I just love talking with passers by.
Our third year at the Madison Westside Community Farmers Market brought more customers and interest than ever. If you haven't visited this market, you should. Many of the same framers who do the market on the square are at this market. The plus is that you have plenty of room for parking and walking around. We do the Spring and Fall sessions (April-June/Sept-Oct)
The other Madison area market where you could find Roots Chocolates™ was the Monona Farmers Market. We are hoping to be there again in 2015 (Spring and Fall), so watch the Events page for updates on where to find Roots.
We were happy to be accepted in to the Milwaukee County Winter Farmer's Market, which runs Nov 2014 - April 2015. Our first market in November was a big hit as we sold out in two hours! We are at this market once per month, with the exception of January 2015. Check the Events page for dates.
In September, I quietly entered the International Chocolate Awards and sent my Chocolate Mint Basil chocolate to New York to be judged by a panel of judges from all over the world. I say quietly because there are thousands of entries for the Americas. This chocolate is made with herbs from our farmstead gardens and is a seasonal favorite. One of the best thin-mints you will experience in my opinion.
I hadn't really paid attention to the judging, and checked back in October to see who had placed. When I saw "Roots Chocolates" taking a Bronze award for the flavored center category for the Americas, I had to pause. Really? Is there another company out there named Roots Chocolates™? I did a quick Google search to verify. I couldn't believe it! I cried tears of joy and ran outside yelling "Holy Sh!#! This mid-western farm girl....did...it!"
So, dreams do come true folks. No matter how small of a business you are. If you are passionate about what you do, nothing will get in your way. I truly feel my love of being a farmer, using ingredients we grow with love and passion is reflected in the end product of what you experience. THAT is what makes me happy.
I'm looking forward to a fast-paced 2015 with many opportunities and new adventures. Stay tuned!