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Here are some of the most exciting moments for us in 2017:
- Every spring for several years now I've organized and lead trips to Ecuador to visit our partner farmers. This past year our trip was especially momentous because two very special people joined the trip, my 18 year old nephew, Brady Dotson, who was a senior in high school at the time of the trip and Molly Flerlage, the longest standing GDC employee, having worked at the chocolate shop since she was 11 and now a senior at Macalester in St. Paul. It's always a great joy to share our passion and connections with people, especially two super smart, change-making young adults that I admire so much.
- In May of 2017, in an effort to glean interest and get feedback from craft chocolatiers and colleagues, I hosted my dear friend, Jenny Samaniego of Conexion Chocolate, and her partner Pablo Torres, on a short tour of several chocolatiers and chocolate professionals in the Upper Midwest. Many of these chocolatiers I've admired from a distance but hadn't had the opportunity to meet face-to-face. Without exception, they all opened their doors to us, providing valuable feedback and sharing the realities of their respective businesses (and serving us fantastic chocolate, of course). To receive such a warm embrace from our fellow chocolatiers was a wonderful thing and a great reminder that we are stronger together than we are alone.
- We have partnered with Jenny Samaniego from Conexion for several years to source our chocolate for GDC and this year we decided to offer her fantastic chocolate to other like-minded chocolatiers, chef and chocolate enthusiasts throughout the United States. We raised almost $200,000.00 to bring in our first container of Conexion Chocolate into the country and, in November, it cleared US customs. Yahoo! Through our newly forming buying club called The Chocolate Squad, we now have available Conexion Chocolate's organic, direct trade chocolate and couverture made from Nacional cacao. It's delicious! (And, if you're interested, we have it in 81%, (3) 70% from different co-ops, 64%, 55% and 43% Dark Milk.
- I was at a small breakout session during the NW Chocolate Festival Unconference, sitting at the table with Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe from Venezuela, Luisa Abram and her sister from Brazil, Jenny Samaniego from Ecuador and a few others, discussing what it was like to be a woman working in chocolate. What struck me was that these women, undoubtedly some of the most influential change-makers in chocolate in South America today, were incredibly down-to-earth and open. I've had many conversations with my friend and chocolate buyer at Zingerman's, Emily Case, who wishes to connect with more women makers, especially those who are making chocolate in countries of origin. She notes that most of our craft chocolate industry is dominated by white men simply because they have better access to resources and/or savvy to grow their businesses and market their brands. The conversation with this group of women made it clear to me why it's important for our industry to support and promote women-makers, and especially those who aren't in the United States. We have a lot to learn from one another and a collaborative, open approach from a variety of perspectives stands to benefit our entire industry.
So it was another year of operating our craft chocolate confections business in lovely Northern Michigan; serving our loyal customers; sourcing super yummy chocolate and ingredients from small family farms; working with our fantastic staff; supporting community events and initiatives; and eating great chocolate. 2017 was a great year and we expect no less from 2018!