14,000 organic farmers strong... and growing
While the seed of Big Tree Farms was first sown in1998 on Ben and Blair Ripple’s mountain farm in the highlands of Bali, our foundation and continued success rests on the direct relationships we maintain with small farmers throughout the Indonesian archipelago.
Big Tree Farms operates what we call sustainable supply chains on more than 10 islands across Indonesia’s archipelago of 17,000 islands and atolls. These sustainable supply chains are actually deeply involved social relationships with individual farmers and community farmer groups. The producers involved become part of our family and their needs, hopes and dreams become integral to the overall goals of the program.
These are the farms of Big Tree Farms.
Learn more by following the links below:
Sweet Tree Coconut Palm Nectar Sweeteners | Cacao & Wonder Chocolate | Coco Hydro and oconut Water | Cold Processed Cashews | Salts, Spices and Honeys
Sweet Tree Coconut Palm Nectars - Tapping The Tree of Life
We work with over 6,000 organic coconut farmers on the island of Java to produce the world’s most incredible sweetener; coconut palm sugar and nectar. Palm sugars are the world’s oldest sweeteners with over 6,000 years of history and perhaps nowhere else on earth are these sweeteners integrated so completely into both cuisine and traditional healing.
When we began our work with coconut palm tappers over 8 years ago, the producers were considered some of the most marginalized and poor in the country. Income, education and access to basic services was very low and in some cases.
Now however things have changed. While the path has been long, we have succeeded together in introducing this incredibly healthy sweetener to people like you all over the globe. We have been directly involved with the creation of farmer organizations, internal control systems and organic certificates for the producers and their product.
We oversee a number of small cooperative maintained "sugarhouses" and directly own and operate multiple coconut palm nectar processing facilities to ensure final quality assurance for all our coconut palm sugar products.
The result has been success on many levels, not the least of which is a viable living wage for all of the producers, but here are a few other noteworthy metrics of the program.
Other key community points:
• 100% of the money from growing, harvesting and primary processing of this ingredient stays in the local communities.
• Our sustainable supply chain manages direct producer programs in value addition education and practice, market access and small business/cooperative management.
• Through market access and production training, smallholder sugar-tappers have risen well above the poverty line and are able to earn an increase in personal income of close to 200% while maintaining a competitive market price as a cane sugar alternative!
• Coconut palm sugar has the single highest potential for lifting these farmers into a better life while creating a net benefit to their surrounding environment and providing you, the consumer, a healthier and more sustainable sweetener.
Chocolate - In The Raw
Cacao is another one of our personal loves. We currently work with over 2,000 farmers on the island of Bali and almost 1,000 farmers in our newly certified program in Aceh (where the 2005 tsunami came to shore) to produce our magical cacao. Since 2004, we have worked in field with local farmers in their food forests to help restore and rehabilitate their cacao trees.
Cacao here grows differently than in most places on earth. We call the system a “food forest” because it is literally a one-stop shop superfood jungle-mart that is planted for the purpose of sustaining a community rather than selling to a market. In fact, we have been told that it was these very systems that inspired a young Bill Mollison to develop the philosophy of Permaculture.
The history of Bali cacao is linked to the history of the legendary Java Criollo, which is linked to the Philippines, which in turn is directly linked to the cacao the Spanish brought there from the legendary Aztec cacao orchards of Soconusco, Mexico. Add to that the magic and mystery of the Island of the Gods (Bali) and you’ve got seriously high energy cacao.
Our cacao program has made some big waves here through a focus on building transparency into the market price, aligning producers into consolidation groups to build power through solidarity and introducing many levels of value addition for the cacao in the local community.
Key community points:
• Farmers have been trained as certified internal control inspectors for the organic program
• Farmers are, for the first time, empowered by transparency systems online where they can access the global daily price for their product at varying stages of value addition
• Big Tree Farms Central Cooperative Processing Unit (CCPU) gives producers hands-on, risk-free training in value addition of cacao through fermentation and solar drying.
• Big Tree Farms is building a Chocolate Factory due to open on 11:11:11 that will close the loop and ensure that nearly all of our producer’s cacao production is processed in Bali, keeping as much cacao income in the local community as possible.
• We partnered with USAID’s AMARTA program for 3 years to train Bali farmers in best practices for cacao production and through this program farmer revenues were increased as much as 30%.
Coco Hydro and it's Coconut Water - Ultimate (and Traditional) Hydration
From the Golden Gate Bridge to the Pentagon the world is falling in love with the fresh, cool hydrating power of Coconut Water. This is old hat for farmers across the southern hemisphere and the Indonesian archipelago is no exception!
When you are 8 degrees south of the equator and spend your days hoeing a field, hydration becomes critical to the scene. A break for a fresh young coconut has been daily ritual here in Indonesia for as far back as anyone can remember, but unfortunately only a very small market has ever existed to sell these young coconuts. The rest of these precious orbs are simply cracked and dried on the half-shell for one of the most poverty-supportive commodities in the world; coconut meat and coconut oil.
Big Tree Farms watched the growing market for coconut water with a bittersweet twinge. A huge market opportunity existed and thousands of farmers could benefit, but the environmental footprint of the coconut water trade is a hard pill to swallow as essentially you are shipping 97% water, with only 3% nutrients, around the world in difficult to recycle aseptic packages...Not a pretty picture.
Enter the concept of Coco Hydro. Big Tree Farms developed a solution to these issues by evaporating the coconut water into a powder that can be easily rehydrated with ones own tap water. And thus began the building of an organic certified coconut water supply chain with over 6,000 small farmers on the island of Java.
Now with over 1,180,000 coconut palms certified organic, the producers have literally doubled their income.
Cashews - The World’s Sweetest Raw Nuts
Over the course of the past 6 years, Big Tree Farms has developed the single highest integrity cold-processed Cashew supply chain in the world. The pitfalls have been many (oh if you only knew) and the learning curve steep, but the resulting nuts have been praised by those on the raw and non-raw path alike.
There is simply no alternative to our cashews; sweeter and more appetizing than any other cashew we have ever tasted…We even have a customer that sells the cashews ground up as “Living Cookie Dough”.
The story goes like this; in 2005, Big Tree Farms began working with an NGO, on the creation of a socially equitable value chain for cashew farmers on the island of Flores. Indonesia as a whole exports over 95% of cashews as raw material (in-shell) without any value addition. Prices paid were extremely low and exploitation was extremely high. The program which we developed in tandem with the farmers allowed them to access premiums from certification and as well take control of value-addition processing by processing the cashew-in shell into peeled tasty TRULY RAW nuts!
Key community points:
• Farmers in the Organic Cashew program have been able to choose their level of involvement in the total cashew value chain from simply selling certified cashew in-shell to producing beautiful whole white peeled kernels.
• Big Tree Farms has built central processing facilities for producers within the program where the tools and oversight are available to process independently with low risk and high return
• Farmers have realized a minimum of 25% increase in revenues from the program and for those that choose to process in community processing facilities the revenue increase has been well over 500%
Reclaiming The Spice Island Heritage
In the beginning there were the salt harvesters….and then the spice farmers and honey stewards. Big Tree Farms has been honored over the past nine years to have built deep relationships with traditional artisan producers throughout the Indonesian islands. While some of the programs are teeny-tiny in scale ( we produce only a few hundred pounds of our unique hollow-pyramid sea salt each month of sun), they are all truly valuable systems that have allowed critical aspects of cultural heritage to find safe harbor in the hands of those that value culinary treasures. Below are a few of the programs we have developed with our producer partners since 2004.
Community Artisan Development:
• Balinese Sea Salts produced on the volcanic black sand beaches of East Bali have a history of over 900 years in written record and are being reinvigorated through market connections to foodies around the world!
• A program focusing on the reintroduction of Piper longum, The Queen Pepper, or more commonly known as Long Pepper has created strong revenues from secondary forest products for a jungle community that previously had to poach timber for income.
• A stroll in the jungle in Sumbawa became the impetus for another incredible secondary forest products program when we were “bee-sieged” by a roving cloud of Giant Bees, Apis dorsata. With some training on sustainable harvest of wild comb this Jungle Honey program has helped to protect a very rare species of bee, increase incomes for a marginalized community and conserve the rainforest!