Birthplace of Little League nominated for National Registry of Historic Places – The Patriot

WILLIAMSPORT – The birthplace of Little League Baseball could be added to the National Registry of Historic Places.

The Pennsylvania State Preservation Board has approved Lycoming County’s nomination of the Original League field and it will be forwarded to the Department of Interior for possible inclusion on the National Register.

The board’s approval means the field, in the city’s Memorial Park, has been added to the list of state historical sites.

Little League founder Carl Stotz in 1938 experimented with the size of a baseball diamond for youngsters where the current left field is.

The first Little League games were placed elsewhere in the park in 1939 and at another nearby location in 1940 and 1941 before the Original Field in 1942.

The annual Little League World Series was played there from its beginning in 1947 through 1958 before it was moved to its present location in South Williamsport.

The legacy of the world series began at that field, Lance Van Auken, executive director of the World of Little League Museum, told the preservation board in explaining why Little League unconditionally supports efforts to place it on the National Register.

Without the foresight of those who built the Original Field, Mo’Ne Davis in August would not have become the first girl to win a game in the world series, he said.

The league that plays there no longer is affiliated with Little League because it has remained independent since Stotz split with the organization in 1955.

“This site is the field of my youth…,” Stotz’s daughter, Karen Stotz Myers, told the board. “I recall getting the center-field flag and being carried with it in my arms back to home plate. This is a field built by families for the youth of America.”

“The historical heritage of this entire area starts with our city hall and proceeds west through Millionaire’s Row to Memorial Park and the Original League field,” said John Grado, the city’s community development director.

In support of the nomination, the Lycoming County planning and community development department over the past years has conducted hundreds of hours of research with the help of the Stotz family, Little League, Original League, Lycoming County Historical Society and others.

“For me, personally and professionally, working on this nomination package has been a labor of love,” said Bill Kelly, planning department deputy director.

“It was very gratifying to bring a long-overdue recognition to this historical site. Harrisburg is now on board – next stop is Washington, D.C.”

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The Black Market Battleground

When Islamic State fighters capture an archaeological site, they’re faced with a series of choices. Do they destroy it or sell its artifacts? If they decide it’s idolatrous, do they extort protection money for it from the Shiite, Sufi, Yazidi, or other religious minority group that values it? Or do they demolish it right away and feature the demolition in their propaganda? If they loot it, do they ransack the place themselves or do they hire others to do it? Or do they tax the opportunistic looters who show up?

Actually, all of the above is going on. How the self-proclaimed Islamic State militant group approaches each site depends on a range of factors, including the area’s land ownership system and the payoff of plundering the site, says Michael Danti, one of the archaeologists leading a U.S. government-funded effort to document the destruction and looting of the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria.

At a time when the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, and other groups are killing, enslaving, and displacing thousands of people across Syria and Iraq, what happens to ancient artifacts may seem like a sideshow. But according to Danti, who is also a professor at Boston University, ISIS’s profits from looting are second only to the revenue the group derives from illicit oil sales. So understanding the Islamic State’s approach to the fate of ancient artifacts actually could be key to stopping its advance.

“What we have from the satellite imagery is that there is industrial-scale looting all over Syria,” said Danti, a leader of an American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) project that in August received U.S. State Department funding to document cultural heritage threats in Syria. During the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September, Secretary of State John Kerry personally thanked Danti in a speech at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the project expanded into Iraq.

It’s often difficult to definitively determine who is responsible for an instance of looting. Both the Syrian government and rebel groups have taken part, as have locals in both Syria and Iraq whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the conflict. Satellite images and informants on the ground often can’t keep up with the pace of looting and of the exchange of territory between various groups.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that the scale of the Islamic State’s destruction, looting, and profits from antiquities trafficking is “unprecedented,” Danti said.

ASOR’s Syrian Heritage Initiative uses satellite images such as these, taken at a site in Syria on January 2012 and March 2014, to understand where and on what scale looting is taking place. Click on each photo to see a larger version.

Amr Al-Azm, an archaeologist at Shawnee State University in Ohio who is also leading efforts to document looting in the region, agreed. At first, the Islamic State simply asked anyone who chose to loot areas it controlled for khums, a tax on the spoils of war paid in Islamic tradition to the government. But by this summer, Al-Azm said, ISIS started taking a more deliberate approach, actively employing contractors to do the excavation. These contractors take some of the profits, and the rest goes to the Islamic State. “It’s part of a growing escalation,” he said.

It’s essentially impossible to estimate the total profits the group is making off of antiquities. Looting appears, though, to be not only the second-most profitable source of ISIS income, but also the second-most common form of employment the group offers in the war-torn areas it controls, Danti said, citing local sources whose identities he couldn’t reveal because he fears for their safety.

“The most recent reports I’m getting is that ISIS is actually engaging itself: They’re hiring their own people, they’re using a lot of earth-moving equipment — bulldozers, et cetera,” Al-Azm said. “So what I can tell you is they’re making enough to make it worth their while.” Although Al-Azm and Danti were very hesitant to give any estimates, others have reported that the group’s earnings from antiquities are surely worth millions, helping make the Islamic State the world’s richest terror group. One lion sculpture from the region eventually sold for more than $50 million in New York in 2007. Most items looted by ISIS haven’t yet appeared on public, international markets, but they may well eventually sell for comparable prices.

At the same time, ISIS is apparently plundering strategically, Danti said. In this, it has probably learned from al Qaeda’s experience in Iraq’s Anbar province around 2006, when local Sunni tribal leaders became fed up with al Qaeda’s rapaciousness and turned against the group, he said. Islamic State leaders “don’t want to be seen as disenfranchising or upsetting powerful Sunni tribal leaders who are frequently the large landowners,” and they try to base their division of the spoils on Islamic law.

When it comes to non-Sunni artifacts, Danti recently heard that there is disagreement within the Islamic State’s sharia courts as to how much they should destroy and how much they should sell and profit from. The group is more likely to destroy Shiite, Yazidi, and Sufi artifacts and sell pre-Islamic ones, but overall, “They’re probably selling most of it,” he said.

The looting itself usually happens in a matter of days. Much of the digging is probably done by local people who are “just trying to feed their families,” Danti said. The Islamic State profits nearly immediately, selling the goods to middlemen who then smuggle them into neighboring countries such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.

But fencing the antiquities takes much longer, and that means that once they leave Syria and Iraq it becomes more difficult to determine their fate. Some middlemen belong to organized crime syndicates that smuggle a range of things — electronics, people, antiquities — and have done so since long before the rise of the Islamic State. That traffic, along with the illegal arms flowing in the opposite direction, is a large part of why control of border locales such as Kobani is so strategically important, Danti said.

In some ways, it’s easier for the international community to intervene once artifacts leave ISIS-controlled areas. Concerned observers can try to raise awareness and exert moral pressure on collectors not to buy likely trafficked items. Those efforts can help bring down the market value of trafficked artifacts, eventually making them less attractive to loot in the first place.

A U.N. resolution in 2003 banning trade in Iraqi antiquities somewhat dampened looting during the Iraq War, and cultural heritage experts and activists are now urging the U.N. to pass a similar measure banning trade in antiquities from Syria. James Sadri of the Syria Campaign, one of the groups involved in the effort, told Foreign Policy that nearly 18,000 people had signed the petition, which will be delivered to U.N. missions in New York this week.

“With well over 200 of the world’s foremost experts in the field calling on the U.N. to ban this trade, it’s getting increasingly difficult for politicians to ignore the campaign,” Sadri stated. “It’s not just about protecting world heritage, it’s also about protecting life — we know that the sale of these antiquities is funding weapons that are fueling the violence in Syria.”

International lawyer and Georgetown professor Mark Vlasic, meanwhile, is calling for not just governments but also private collectors, auction houses, and others involved in the antiquities trade to meet and agree to practices to impede further looting.

But the murkiness around what happens to artifacts once they leave Syria or Iraq makes these international agreements harder to implement. In the short term, they may cause middlemen to hold onto the artifacts until the furor has died down — which generally takes several years. Most of what was plundered from Iraq between 2003 and 2005 is only now appearing in aboveground international markets, the main exception being when a particular collector has a request out for a specific kind of artifact, according to Danti.

“The material is gradually, incrementally laundered in the world-antiquities market, and it becomes very difficult to establish when, where, who, what, why at that point in time,” Danti said. “So we’ve got to chronicle everything we can now so we can try to determine what was stolen by whom and even try to get the slightest inclination as to where they’re going.”

According to cultural heritage attorney Rick St. Hilaire, however, it looks like at least some recently looted items are making their way to the United States. “American imports of art, collections, and collectors’ pieces, and antiques from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey increased sharply between 2011 and 2013, prompting questions about whether trafficked heritage has piggybacked onto the mainstream marketplace,” St. Hilaire wrote last week.

St. Hilaire found that the aggregate value of art, collections, and collectors’ pieces imported from those countries rose 86 percent from 2011 to 2013, with a nearly 500 percent increase in the value of imports from Iraq between 2012 and 2013. Of those imports, 93 percent “were declared to be antiques over 100 years old, begging the question of whether nearly $18 million worth of great grandmothers’ rocking chairs and similar items were shipped to America or whether the imports may have been ancient archaeological artifacts misclassified as ‘antiques,’” St. Hilaire wrote. “Commodities declared by importers to be antiques from Iraq and Syria rocketed skyward by 672 percent and 133 percent, respectively, from 2012 to 2013.”

As during the earlier Iraq conflict, many of these apparently looted items are fakes — but some are probably real. Traffickers have been known to slip antiquities imports under the radar of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the past, St. Hilaire notes, “surreptitiously labeling Hindu idols as ‘handicrafts,’ or “affixing ‘Made in Thailand’ stickers on ancient Ban Chiang pots to make them appear modern.”

Brandon Montgomery, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an email that ICE’s investigatory arm is “aware that Syrian and Iraqi cultural heritage treasures may surface, but ICE will not confirm or deny any possible ongoing investigation.” The U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Others in the U.S. government are concerned that current efforts aren’t enough. Rep. William Keating, a Massachusetts Democrat and the ranking member on the Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called evidence of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities increasingly showing up in the United States a “disconcerting development” and said it “implies not only an uptick in the illicit trade of these items, but links the destruction, plundering, and looting of cultural heritage sites to potential buyers in the United States who may be funding terrorist activities in the Middle East.” Keating is working on proposals to strengthen cooperation between government bodies to combat antiquities trafficking.

As international efforts move slowly forward, leaders of the government-backed ASOR project are trying to make it easier and safer for people within Syria and Iraq to report looting. Andy Vaughn, ASOR’s executive director, said the project is developing a web app through which people can file incident reports. But before the app goes live, it needs more work to ensure that it can’t be hacked, endangering the people notifying authorities.

It’s likely that for a long time, obtaining and sharing this information will continue to be a very risky business. “The real heroes of the story are those people on the ground,” Al-Azm said.

ASOR’s Syrian Heritage Initiative/Directorate-General of Antiquities Museums, Syria

Article source:

Halong Bay, Vietnam: the best way to visit

The new seaplane service also takes visitors to the bay from Hanoi airport – a
30 minute flight compared to four hours by road – before landing at the
local marina. From here, visitors board different cruises, with varying
price tags, to explore Halong Bay by boat.

Designated a Unesco world heritage site 20 years ago this year, the bay is one
of Vietnam’s most popular tourist attractions. It is only recently though,
that a small number of cruise boats have ventured further east into the Gulf
of Tonkin, to the outer rocky flanks of Bai Tu Long.

I escaped the congestion of Halong Bay with Bhaya’s three-day cruise to Bai Tu
Long on the Au Co with her 32 handsome wood cabins with balconies.

The white ship (in a mysterious move, authorities ordered all the boats in the
bay to be painted white, the same colour as the fog that can envelop the
area) heads first to Bai Tu Long, the outer battlements of the limestone
fort, before cruising back through Halong Bay at the end of the trip.

Bai Tu Long means ‘the place where the dragon children descended’. It’s an
isolated, otherworldly, remote area of the gulf, scattered with knobbly
peaks, pillars fringed with untidy twigs, solid limestone sentinels cut with
sheer bare-faced rock and, every once in a while, an apron of creamy sand
seen tied to the base of the towers.

We cruised to one of these – Vung Ha Beach – a crescent-shaped bay at the base
of a crouching outcrop with jagged, castellated peaks. After kayaking
through the undercut of a nearby stack, we abandoned the paddles and dived
in to the warm, papaya green waters. After a long soak, it was time to sit
on coral-shattered sands that were perfumed by the fragrance of a white
bloom floating over the beach.

Back on board, we supped on the happy hour flow of cocktails and Hanoi beer
with the Au Co guests, hailing from Australia, Europe, America and Vietnam.
At dusk, when the wings of the golden crow – the sun of Vietnam’s creation
story – hovered over the unkempt rocky lumps, fishing boats puttered by and
sampans slouched under the overhangs. Then, when the graceful swan of the
moon ascended, all that was visible in this distant spot away from other
tour boats were the dying violet clouds and inky black outlines of limestone
monoliths. The stars hung very far away in the intensely black sky and the
small wake of the fishing boats caused the moonlight to shimmer in slithers,
making it look as if stars were dropping into the waters.

Our breakfast in the Au Co dining room came with more spectacular views as we
cruised just metres past the scattered islands of Bai Tu Long. Some of the
pillars were jagged like the scales of a mythical dragon, some just stumps,
others appeared in traditional jelly-mould shape and some like a batch of
misshapen rock cakes. In the distance, we spied a dense army of lead grey
pillars studded with the tufts of hardy plants glued to the vertical shafts
of the rock.

Sheltered in a barnacled corner of Bai Tu Long is Vung Vieng village. In an
attempt to control pollution in the bay, fisherman have either been exported
to land or corralled into floating communities by the government. We boarded
bamboo boats so the locals could row us around their village and oyster
pearl farming plots. Au Co’s Mr Tuan explained: “Locals sell these pearls
for jewellery, cosmetics, and medicine. It takes a year to 18 months to
cultivate pearls but only around 30 per cent of the farmed oysters grow

After being rowed around Vung Vieng and a lot of leisurely sitting around
under the canvas umbrellas of the Au Co, we all felt it was time to exercise
– but not before feasting for lunch. The Au Co’s cuisine is based on the
Taoist philosophy of balance and harmony and our five course meals included
delicate dragon fruit and Phan Thiet scallops, grilled minced Halong fish on
lemon grass, chicken roulade with onion cream, and an intense passion fruit

Stomachs full, we moored off the south-east corner of Cat Ba, the largest
island in Halong Bay, a colossal karst platform, straggled by smaller tiny
islands, and home to a rare and endemic primate.

“In 1960, there were 2,700 Cat Ba langurs, but they’ve all been eaten,” Mr
Tuan told us. “Since 2000, the number has increased from 53 to 65, and there
is now good conservation education in the local villages.”

Accompanied by zooming green dragonflies, we biked through a Jurassic Park
wonderland of limestone walls flanked with feral plants and bushes to Viet
Hai, a small, repopulated village where the Au Co employs locals at its
organic farm. We didn’t see any primates above ground but below ground was a
different story.

Halong Bay’s grottoes have been visited since the French discovered them more
than 100 years ago. At Hang Sung Sot (Surprise Cave), Mr Tuan pointed out
the subterranean images seen in the whipped up floors and ceilings of the
chambers – Kong Kong’s face was here, a turtle symbolising longevity there,
and the tail of a dragon rippled above our heads. It reminded us, again, of
Halong’s ‘descending dragon’ and its protection of this extraordinary Unesco

  • A week-long luxury trip to Vietnam with Audley Travel (01993 838 140;
    starts at £2590 per person, including three nights at the Sofitel
    Metropole Hanoi with a full day tour, international flights, sea plane
    to Halong Bay and two nights aboard the excellent Au Co.
  • Hai Au Aviation (
    offers 30-minute daily flights from Hanoi to Halong Bay, as well as
    additional scenic flights on Cessna Grand Caravans from £170 person.
  • The Au Co (+84 (0)933 44 65 42;
    three-day cruise to Bai Tu Long costs from £670 per deluxe cabin for
    two people including road transfers.

Getting there

Thai Airways (020 3263 2062;
flies from London Heathrow to Bangkok for £750 return. Vietnam Airlines
flies from Bangkok to Hanoi for £190 return. Vietnam Airlines operates
direct flights from London Gatwick to Hanoi twice a week. Prices start from
£497 return.

Getting around

Self-drive car hire is not available to short-term visitors to Vietnam. Most
visitors to Halong Bay book a cruise package which includes land or seaplane
transfers to the bay from Hanoi.

The Inside Track

As the old adage goes, you will get what you pay for. There are cheap and
cheerful backpacker boat excursions to Halong Bay starting from a half-day
cruise to longer trips where accommodation is basic; at the other end of the
spectrum are top luxury packages such as the Indochine elegance of the
recreated French paddle steamer, the Emeraude. If you would like to travel
to Bai Tu Long you will need to opt for at least a two-day cruise to cover
the distance.

Bai Tu Long cruises

Alternatives to Bhaya’s Au Co include Indochina Junk’s junks on their 2-day
The Princess one-cabin junk costs from £228 per person; the Prince, suitable
for families, with cabins ranging from one to three, costs from £139-184 per

Ethnic Travel (
offers a 3-day cruise taking in a visit to Quan An Island on its small
wooden junk with blood orange sails from £105 per person.

Tonkin Cruises three boats sail a 3-day cruise to Bai Tu Long Bay (
from £161 per person in a deluxe double.

Best time to visit

Halong Bay can be visited year round. The best time to visit is September and
October, and March and April.

Further information

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (

Explore Halong Bay in Vietnam with Telegraph Travel Collection.
Discover our variety of cruises and escorted tours.

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Wine-themed holidays: From Spain to South America

But it is not just the vine-draped landscapes that are a draw. Many of the better-established wineries have recognised that a good visitors’ centre can become a crowd puller in its own right. Among these is the Marchesi Antinori family, whose name is synonymous with some of Italy’s most venerable vintages. Last year, it opened its first visitors’ centre, within an ambitious new landmark called Antinori nel Chianti Classico (00 39 055 235 9700; a half hour from Florence, in Tuscany. Inside is a shop, restaurant, cellars, bookshop, auditorium, and museum.

With its wine-making roots established all over the globe, Marchesi Antinori is also a co-owner of the prestigious Stag’s Leap Vineyard in California’s Napa Valley. A tourist hotspot in its own right, last month Stag’s Leap also unveiled the new $7m (£4.4m) Fay Outlook Visitor Center (001 866 422 7523; designed by Barcelona-based architect Javier Barba.

Spain is also at the cutting edge of wine-focused wanderings. Frank Gehry famously reinvented the historic Marqués de Riscal (00 34 945 60 6000; winery in La Rioja. Also in La Rioja, R Lopez de Heredia (00 34 941 31 0244;, engaged the talents of architect Zaha Hadid to design an ultra-modern visitors’ pavilion for its winery.

With advancements in viticulture and climate change, wine-makers are always innovating; highly regarded Chilean wine-maker, Aurelio Montes, recently announced his intention to plant experimental vines in Peru’s Sacred Valley near Machu Picchu, more than 3,000m above sea level.

Several of South America’s wine regions are perfect for eager oenophiles to explore. With a spectacular backdrop of the Chilean Andes, Viña Vik (00 569 633 4682; employed the talents of Chilean architect Smiljan Radic to conceive the arrestingly designed winery, two hours drive south of the capital, Santiago. And on 15 October an ultra-luxurious 22-room resort opens alongside the vineyard. A glass or two of the house might be needed before paying the bill though – doubles start at US$1,200 (£750).

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Poverty Point: Cradle of LA civilization

Poverty Point State Historic Site becomes Poverty Point World Heritage Site following inscription ceremony Saturday. Hear Jonathan Jarvis, National Parks Service praise the project.

U.S. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis didn’t hesitate when asked about the significance of Poverty Point’s inclusion as a World Heritage Site.

“This changes everything,” said Jarvis, who was among hundreds here Saturday attending the official inscription ceremony of the Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Site.

“Poverty Point is now elevated to the highest status internationally, and the world will come here to see it,” Jarvis said.

Poverty Point, which remains under Louisiana control as a state historical site, now stands beside iconic international cultural landmarks like Stonehenge in England, the Pyramid Fields at Giza in Egypt and the Great Wall of China.

The hour-long ceremony and daylong celebration here Saturday included food, tours and demonstrations.

It’s the first place in Louisiana — and only the 22nd in the United States — to earn World Heritage Site status. There are 1,001 World Heritage sites around the globe.

“Welcome to the cradle of Louisiana civilization,” said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, whose office nurtured the eight-year Poverty Point application process. “It all started here 3,400 years ago.

“A sophisticated group of Native Americans built these mounds that we celebrate today, and they somehow moved 53 million cubic feet of soil to build them.”

Charles Fryling, a professor of landscape architecture at LSU, and his wife left their their Baton Rouge home at 4 a.m. Saturday to drive to the ceremony.

“This puts Poverty Point on a world stage,” Fryling said. “It really is a marvelous thing.”

The Poverty Point complex comprises five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges and a central plaza. It was created and used for residential and ceremonial purposes by a society of hunter fisher-gatherers between 3,700 and 3,100 B.C.

Its population’s achievement in earthen construction in North America wasn’t surpassed for at least 2,000 years.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who shepherded the federal support for the nomination, called the event “the most significant in this part of the country for a long time. It’s significant for the world and our country and our state, and it’s something we won’t see again in our lifetime here,” she said.

Virtually every regional politician and many statewide leaders joined her.

Among them were state Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, and state Rep. Bubba Chaney, R-Rayville, in whose districts the site is located. “I think it’s the biggest thing in West Carroll Parish — ever,” Walsworth said.

Fifth District U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, who grew up in West Carroll Parish, called it “a great day for this community and Louisiana.”

State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, was among the early advocates for Poverty Point, and he recalled climbing the mounds as a child.

“It’s been an important part of my life,” Thompson said. “I’m so proud and happy, and I’m thrilled that people from all over the world will have the opportunity to know about Poverty Point.”

And Dardenne said he expects a global audience will travel to see Poverty Point for themselves.

“There will be a groundswell of tourism and economic development,” he said.

Small towns like Oak Grove, as well the the regional hub city of Monroe, will benefit, said Oak Grove Mayor Adam Holland.

“It’s huge for all of the rural communities surrounding Poverty Point,” Holland said. “The tourism potential is exponential.”

Frank Craddock of Washington, D.C., joined the celebration while visiting family in northeastern Louisiana.

“This is fantastic,” Craddock said. “To have this site on the same level as the pyramids and the Great Wall is just amazing.”

There were also representatives from UNESCO, the Smithsonian Institution and the San Antonio Franciscan Missions (Alamo), the United States’ next nomination to join the list of World Heritage Sites.

“This status is opening unlimited door and opportunities for Poverty Point,” Dardenne said.

Park manager David Griffing has worked at the site 29 years.

“All I can say is it feels like we’re on top of the world,” Griffing said.

To go

Poverty Point State Historical Site: 6859 Louisiana 577, Pioneer

Directions: From Interstate 20, take the Delhi exit and travel north on Louisiana 17, east on Louisiana 134 and north on Louisiana 577.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Tours: Guided tours are offered daily.

Trails: 2.6-mile hiking trail

Cost: $4 per person; free for seniors and children 12 and younger.

Information: 926-5492;

By the numbers

Total World Heritage Sites: 1,001

In the United States: 22

In Louisiana: 1

Next US nomination: San Antonio Franciscan Missions (Alamo)

Article source:

The Chocolate Revolution: Central American Start-Up Seeks To Grow …

We have a chocolate problem. And it’s not just about the impact it will have on our waists this Halloween. It’s even bigger than that.

Here are the top three most important things chocolate lovers need to know:

  1. Smallholder cocoa farmers are underpaid and impoverished: Ninety percent of the world’s cocoa is produced by five million small-producer farmers in West Africa, Latin America, and Asia. These farmers are getting minimal pay, with the majority of cocoa farmers globally living on less than $2 per day. Farmer poverty is widespread, while big manufacturers are capturing the vast majority of profits from the nearly $100 billion global chocolate industry.
  2. Demand for cocoa is growing, but farmer income isn’t improving: An estimated 4.4 million tons of cocoa (or cacao) are produced every year. That demand is expected to grow over 30 percent in the next five years as countries like China, India, and Brazil start eating more chocolate. The majority of farmers are unlikely to see the benefit of this growing market. In fact, many farmers have given up on cocoa and switched to other more lucrative, often environmentally destructive crops like palm oil. The average age of a cocoa farmer in West Africa, which produces about 70 percent of the world’s cocoa, is 51—which means farmers’ kids are abandoning the crop. So unless you’re paying more for your chocolate bar and know where your chocolate maker is sourcing their cocoa, unfortunately you’re probably just feeding (and eating) the problem.
  3. Reliance on Fair Trade labels and other certifications to solve these problems hasn’t worked, and likely won’t in the future: The root cause of cocoa farmer poverty is that the revenue farmers receive does not cover their cost of production. Farmers, lacking resources to invest in increasing their cocoa yields, are locked in a cycle of poverty. Certification schemes work by adding a premium for farmer cooperatives onto the global commodity market price, but the certifications are expensive to obtain and in some cases the extra income from selling certified cocoa may not even cover the costs of certification. And the premiums generally go into a bank account managed by the farmer cooperative for social projects, not into farmers’ pockets. The impact of these premiums on driving improvement in livelihoods at scale has not been proven, and does not directly address or solve the root cause of cocoa farmer poverty.

But there is a new, more ethical chocolate movement going on as we speak, with at least 50 new chocolate makers in the U.S. popping up over the last three years. Think microbrew beers and specialty coffee roasters—we are similarly at the beginning of a chocolate revolution. In fact, there’s probably a new small-scale chocolate maker in your city or state.

A cacao tree with fruit pods in various stages of ripening. Taken on the Big Island (Hawaii) in the botanical gardens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Current cocoa demand in this new market is estimated at a relatively small but quickly growing 7,000 tons around the world. However, chocolate makers still have trouble finding cocoa with the right quality, social impact, and consistent supply to satisfy their customers, because of those top three problems we mentioned earlier.

In rural, southern Belize, a community of indigenous Maya is working to solve this problem. Founded in 2010 by a team of entrepreneurs, chocolate makers and cocoa farmers, the social enterprise Maya Mountain Cacao connects over 300 small organic cocoa farmers to the fine chocolate industry through direct, transparent relationships. Farmers participating in this model are getting a stable price of more than 100 percent of the world market price paid directly to them the same day they harvest. This creates real incentives for farmers to grow production of this valuable crop and drives reforestation of previously cleared jungle, while delivering premium quality cocoa to some of the world’s best new chocolate makers.

This new model is driving real results for farmers and their families. Incomes have grown over 20 percent since 2012, and school attendance for farmers’ children has increased 85 percent. Farmers are planting over 80,000 more cocoa trees this year to help fulfill market demand for their tasty, organic cocoa beans.

Chocolate makers love it, too. Demand for Belize’s organic cocoa has grown exponentially; especially considering the country was not even on the map for U.S. chocolate makers before Maya Mountain Cacao started operations in 2010. Today, 7 chocolate makers currently buy cocoa from Belize, with 75+ on the waitlist.

So, if everyone loves the cocoa, and Belize loves making it, what’s the issue? As is the case for cocoa farmers globally, unless we support and invest in farmers, we won’t be able to grow cocoa production. That’s why Maya Mountain Cacao has partnered with the local community to plant a world-class cocoa training center in the form of an organic, 120-acre Demonstration Farm. The land being developed was previously at risk of destruction by slash and burn farming. With this Demonstration Farm, the land will be protected through cocoa-based organic agroforestry. (“Agroforestry” is the technical term for planting diverse crops and trees. Where you plant cocoa trees, you also plant timber, like mahogany and cedar, and other crops like plantains, avocados, plums, and palms, which can all be sold as side products, or used in the home.) By combining traditional farming practices with modern science, the community is able to preserve their customs and heritage, while participating and driving value from the modern market.

Belize is just a drop in the bucket in the world’s annual cocoa production. However, cocoa farmers and buyers globally have an opportunity to learn from the lessons set by this relatively tiny farming community. If we set up more training centers globally, which similarly balanced modern science and traditional practices, we would enable more farmer communities to benefit from this growing industry. Moreover, from this example we’ve seen what happens when cocoa farmers and chocolate makers collaborate directly. By removing middlemen and shortening the value chain, both farmers and buyers increase their value and quality, ultimately bringing large-scale social impact to farming communities and driving systemic change in this tasty but troubled industry.


Emily Stone is the co-founder and CEO of Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize and the global Uncommon Cocoa Group. Consider contributing to their Kickstarter campaign, which will raise money to finish developing the Demonstration Farm.

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Time to Trust American Heritage and American Youth

A great failure of our educational system today is its inability to reaffirm — much less inspire –the sense of a larger purpose in American youth.

America is steeped in purpose: fighting a revolutionary war to establish a nation committed to freedom and equality; a bloody civil war to maintain it, and two world wars to defeat imperialism, while eradicating Hitler’s “master race.”

Americans embraced “the land of opportunity,” became the home of “the rugged individual,” humbly sharing it — “give me your tired and poor” — while rooting for the underdog. They admired individual initiative, but made fair play and helping others an integral part of the American character. Children were raised with a purpose: “Be the best you can be, help others and leave the world a better place.”

This heritage has been passed down to us by our ancestors and internalized by immigrants pursuing the “American dream.” Until 1945, this morality reflected American families, extended families, neighborhoods, schools, religions, and community organizations.

However, once WWII ended, the GI Bill inadvertently began a dramatic change in our culture.

Our so-called “greatest generation” came back from the war intent on “getting ahead,” and Congress passed a bill opening higher education to many of us who never would have considered it. Instead of serving the elite few, colleges suddenly became a GI’s ticket to success!

In time, school curricula became college prep, with the SAT — Scholastic Aptitude Test — the ultimate measure of achievement.

Given years of increasingly intense competition to get the best grades, best test scores, best colleges possible, the values of this new and powerful “achievement culture” soon overshadowed our American character and heritage.

For example, a high school girl cuts her senior English class an unexcused third time, which means an automatic failure in the course. She asks her mother to write a note excusing her. The mother does so, compromising her integrity, feeling the cost to her daughter is too great to do otherwise.

The larger life purpose of “be the best I can be, help others, leave the world a better place” got replaced by a more self-centered purpose: “Better college = better job = more money = happiness.”

Our most elite colleges reflect this transformation of purpose. Former Yale professor William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and The Way to a Meaningful Life, wrote the most read New Republic article in their 100 year history: “Don’t Send Your Kid to an Ivy League School: The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies.”

Deresiewicz believes elite colleges today have replaced their traditional purpose of building moral character with helping students build competitive résumés. He calls students “excellent sheep” because they are primarily being groomed for work (somewhat reminiscent of the “Robber Barons” exploitation of workers in the late 1800s) instead of being prepared to live full and enriching lives.

The cost of this misguided college purpose is hinted in a New York Times headline: “Why are so many people in their ’20s taking so long to grow up?”

All of us know making a lot of money at a job — even one we like — does not guarantee a successful and fulfilling life. It doesn’t determine other vital aspects of our lives — marriage, children, friends, interests, spirituality, general well-being, old age and so on.

Even the Ancient Greeks taught us the first and foremost purpose of education was to Know Thyself; to address the three basic questions:

  • “Who am I?;
  • Where am I going in life?;
  • What do I need to get there?

Such an education requires a rigorous inner search as well as an outer one for truth and understanding.

This kind of education would produce a superior brand of students. Most students don’t play competitive sports because they know they cannot compete with gifted athletes. By the same reasoning, many students do not do their best in school because they know they will still be out-competed by gifted students.

However, by making the primary school focus Know Thyself, motivation shifts from competition to curiosity, which encourages learning for its own sake and true scholarship for all students.

If we are honest, American education has become relatively shallow, with mediocre results at best based on achievement. If we believe in our heritage — we will stop training our kids to fit into our work force, instead focusing more on developing their character and unique potential and trusting their vision to lead America’s future.

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