After months of planning and preparation for our first workshop with all of the APOT farmers, we finally met! We were hoping for a good turn out, and Floria, the Farmer’s Market coordinator, really came through! 75 percent of the associates were present! The meeting was held in Pavones, nearby, at APOT’s main office, where the facilities are pretty primative. We had purchased a “sticky wall” for this occasion, and it came in amazingly handy! We displayed a reproduction of APOT’s organizational structure on it, which gave us a great visual while we conducted a review of their strategic plan and explained the basics of how committees work.

Lunch was served by APOT’s Junta Directiva (Board of Directors) in the long hall behind the kitchen. Que rico! Pork taco, rice, black beans, picadillo made with the green beans that Amanda helped Floria pick yesterday, and Dr. Benjamin’s homemade chocolate brownies (made with the organic chocolate she and her husband grow on their farm). 

One of our main tasks for today was assigning committee member roles for the next week’s worth of product committee workshops, where we’ll concentrate on finishing the Marketing Action Plan (MAP) for the Farmer’s Market, coffee, and banana vinegar product lines. It was great to see the level of interest and participation from these farmers, who produce various agricultural products (primarily bananas and banana vinegar, coffee, chocolate, sugar cane, and regionally grown vegetables). After asking lots of questions and contributing their thoughts about their products’ value propositions, each famer went up to the sticky wall to place his or her name below one of the product committees, essentially agreeing to take an active role in one of the day-long workshops scheduled for this Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It was a proud moment of collaboration for APOT!

Tomorrow we’ll lead the Farmer’s Market product committee through the MAP. The MAP is a vital component of the overall business plan, which APOT hopes to finish by the time our last team of Extensionistas visits Costa Rica in October. At that time, they’ll unveil the plan to their General Assembly and make plans to approach banks and grant-making agencies for funding. But, a solid business plan–like the one Amanda outlined today– consists of a lot of consensus-building, and that often means making a lot of difficult decisions and changing the current business model/status quo. For the next three days, we must keep in mind that a finalized MAP will go a long way toward constructing a stronger APOT and give our Extension teammates a great start to finalizing this process. Let’s hope the next three days are productive!

To celebrate today’s success, Dr. Benjamin (Tamara) invited us to her home for dinner (yummy chicken fajitas with homemade tortillas and fresh avocado). For dessert, her husband, Alan, a chocolate farmer, gave us one of his famous chocolate talks and produced homemade chocolate sauce (from the beans) in front of our very eyes! After having tasted pure chocolate, my Snickers bar will never “really satisfy” me again. 🙂 Saludos!