The last few days we went to visit our raisins in Turkey. Well, the factory where they were made. We know each of our suppliers personally. It's important to us that we are up-to-date with the production process and the conditions in the factory.
The raisins we use come from Turkey.
From an area near Izmir, to be exact. Turkey is the only country in Europe where they can produce organic raisins in large quantities. They are also made in California, but we chose a country that's closer to us to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum.
The founder of the factory where our raisins are produced was the very first organic farmer and entrepreneur in Turkey, 30 years ago. Since then, they have achieved a lot when it comes to sustainability and ethical labour.
Ethical farming is about more than growing organic produce.
In the spirit of 'we can't share the land, but we can share our knowledge', this producer has taught more than 3000 farmers about organic farming. This happens in local coffee houses, eateries and cafes.
But ethical farming goes even further than that. They have organised nation-wide irrigation, they build safe homes for their workers and undertake dozens of projects to improve the quality of agriculture in their country. Their motto is 'you solve problems by starting at the roots'.
11,000 hectares of organic agriculture
About 11,000 hectares of the land in Turkey is used for organic farming. They grow raisins, but also other fruit like figs, dates, mulberries, strawberries, apples, pears, cherries and hazelnuts.
You can't see any grapes yet, but there are plenty of fruit trees blossoming in the glorious Turkish sunshine.
From grape to raisin
The grapes are grown in the open air without any chemical pesticides. Because everything is grown 100% organically, of course. For example, they wrap cotton wool around the bottom of the vines to keep insects from climbing up the bark.
When the grapes are ripe, they are picked and laid to dry in the open air. When they have dried sufficiently, they are taken to the factory for washing, checking and sorting.
First, they remove any stones. The raisins that are still stuck together are put back in the sorter to separate them. After that they are washed, and once again any stems or other materials are removed. They keep doing this until only the best raisins are left. The ones that are not used are turned into animal feed or sauce.
Because we don't use chemical preservatives, these raisins are not dipped in a sulfate solution. After their last dip in water, they are rested for eight hours to ensure they really absorb the water. The raisins are packaged right away, to make sure they don't lose any moisture. That's why the raisins are so deliciously soft and juicy.
Of course, we were filled with inspiration to develop new products.
It's pertinent to us that the factories where our products are made are in line with our mission. Together, we can take small steps to make big changes. And that's what we're all about.