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Cacao

Maya Mountain Research Farm manages about 600 species of plants. As a farm, we have a broad diversity of plant and animal species we work with. Some of the plant species are medicinal or timber species. Others are for plants for domestic consumption. We do have several species that are both for domestic consumption and expressly for marketing.

 

One of the species we sell is cacao. MMRF has 15 acres of land managed as an agroforestry system that has reached the level of maturity that we can use the acreage as canopy for sub canopy species like cacao, coffee and cardamom. We market our cacao as either raw cacao, or processed into cacao balls, which we sell locally.

 

MMRF is a good place to learn about cacao. Our cacao is established in the context of a completely created agroforestry system, with multiple species, and our agroforestry system closely mimics the ecological functions of an intact ecosystem, with nutrient cycling, varied fruiting/flowers episodes, and a vertically integrated production model that resembles the arboreal architecture of the primary rainforest, though simplified and largely human centric in terms of species composition.

 

MMRF has a well established seed bank of rare and indigenous cacao. Except for some trials on a Nicaraguan heirloom criollo, and some Venezuelan cacao, all of our cacao originates in the Maya Mountains. Much of our cacao is criollo heavy trinitarios which were hybrid cacaos created in this watershed with the first colonization of the watershed by the first wave of Kekchi Maya  migration, arriving here in around 1900. The cacao that the Kekchi brought in with them was already a criollo heavy trinitario, with a minimum %75 criollo parentage. A percentage of it was crossed with pure criollo cacao that was encountered here, creating cacao that is almost pure criollo. It is a very robust and productive cacao that yields superior cacao beans for chocolate.

Our cacao is being planted with biochar in the soil, and the healthy communities of bacteria and fungi have increased growth rates of the cacao.

 

Our biggest expansion in cacao cultivation have been the cacaos that originated deep in the Maya Mountains. We are planting seed from cacao that was collected during an expedition and joint project between Ministry of Agriculture and Toledo Cacao Growers Association in 1999. This cacao was collected at the ruins of Ek Xux and Muklebal in upper Bladen, and helicopter evacuated to be planted with support from the British Army. The Bladen cacao is a relic Maya cultigen left behind after the collapse. It has been growing in isolation for over 1200 years. MMRF is one of three farms that have fruiting cacao from that expedition. We have been distributing seed from those trees to farmers and farms in Toledo District in an effort to reach critical mass towards obtaining a specialty market for this unique cacao.

 

We have none of the commercial cacao that was introduced to Belize in the 1980s on behalf of Hershey. Unfortunately, a lot of this has been planted in Belize. While very productive, in terms of kilograms per hectare, it makes an inferior chocolate.

 

We have other rare criollos that we are producing, primarily for seed to distribute.

 

MMRF markets organic cacao balls for sale. Contact us if you are interested.