Janet's Jottings

Giving thanks to Made and the farmers! It’s great to be back in Bali…

16th Oct 2023

Indonesia holds a special place in Janet’s heart. On the eve of International Real Vanilla Day, this is her message for Made and the farmers who are regenerating the Balinese rainforests.

Did you know..?

Vanilla pods from the LittlePod orchard in Bali are now available to order from our online shop!

Tomorrow – October 17th – is International Real Vanilla Day. The LittlePod team is celebrating this special occasion with Made and the vanilla farmers here in Indonesia. I’ve been to Bali twice before and it’s so special and rather poignant to be back. It’s because of the relationship I have with Made and the community here that we decided to do this. Tomorrow, we will spend the day at the LittlePod orchard, which is not far from our hotel here. I can’t wait to see it for myself.

When Made first reached out all those years ago to see if there was much interest from Europe in him producing vanilla here, I responded for two reasons. The first reason was the relationship that I had with Bali. The second was that Made told me that he had completed a degree in Bali, a Masters in the Netherlands and a PhD in Chicago. That told me everything that I needed to know about Made as a man and the kind of resilience and tenacity that he must have.

So here I am back in Bali. Just for a few days this time – having stayed for five weeks on both of my previous visits! Being a former teacher, I have a habit of looking out for primary schools whenever I travel. When I first came here – 20 years ago – I did just this and, when the head found out that I was a teacher, he asked me to come in and teach the children English, maths and the four seasons. There are just two seasons in Bali – hot and wet – and the children were all fascinated by the idea of cold, wind, ice and snow. I taught those children for five weeks and, although there were no pens or paper in the school, they were so keen to learn. I came back to Bali two years later and I could see that some of those lessons had been put into practice and that the passion for learning was stronger than ever. I’m seeing that even more now.

Having arrived here on Sunday, we met Syiraz and the team from the farm and the processing facility. They’re young men, but learning is important to them. They’re interested in climate change and the environment and I feel that Bali’s future is safe with people like this. Indonesia is a young country, 50% of the population are young people, but this is the future economy. It’s all being built on education and that is heartening to see. Before, state education ended at 12. Now, it is 18 and the difference is obvious. The young people at LittlePod’s vanilla farm look up to Made and are interested to learn about the polyculture method he has pioneered and its impact on biodiversity. They’ve just built a state-of-the art processing facility, which we’re going to visit later on this week. I’ve spent so long trying to keep this all quiet – theft is still a big problem in the vanilla industry, and you never know how the crop will turn out – and it’s so nice to be able to talk about it like this. It has all been built on trust and it’s so satisfying to see it become such a success.

To the farmers here in Bali, I’d like to say this: Your hard work and your trust in Made have helped you to achieve something special for the next generation. That generation will thank you for reviving the vanilla industry, for your innovation in embracing Made’s polyculture system and for the impact that this has had on policy-making for the future of Indonesia.

Thirteen years ago, I was told by Patricia Rain – the Vanilla Queen in California – that we were on the precipice and could lose real vanilla altogether. You have risen to the challenge and the contribution that you have made to forest regeneration in Bali is to the benefit of us all. That collaboration and that trust has paid off and that’s what we will celebrate tomorrow, on International Real Vanilla Day, and beyond – long into the future. The worthwhile nature of it all is something that we can all be proud of…

Vanilla hugs and thank-you to you all, Janet x

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