Blair and Ben Ripple began Big Tree Farms back in June 2000 on a humble one eighth of an acre, which has expanded to ten acres where now over 80 varieties of crops are sustainably grown all year round in the pristine, mountainous central highlands of Bali. Picture lush green rolling terraced hills of 30 year old cacao and coffee plants, vanilla orchids enveloping Dapdap trees, and passion fruit temptingly dangling from vines for the taking. Hidden amidst the shade trees you will find a plethora of organic fruits and vegetables including such tasty heirlooms as French Chantenay carrots, D’avignon radishes, Pennsylvania Brandywine tomatoes and Italian Chioggia beets.
The intended goal when the Ripples embarked on this business endeavor was to provide a sustainable example for small growers in the humid tropics to follow that would help them preserve (or in some cases revive) and celebrate their agricultural and food producing heritage. BTF follows what they call the ECO² philosophy of being “economically viable – ecologically sustainable.” Finding a balance between the two is how they define what it means to arrive at the successful realization of sustainability.
In 2002, BTF diversified the business by starting the Firefly Supper Series, an on-site dinner showcasing all of the farm’s own crops, which soared to new heights once they were featured in Gourmet magazine in 2005. For these dinners, BTF sought out other local Balinese food artisans in order to supplement the meal with what their farm wasn’t producing. This is how they stumbled upon a local sea salt, which became their next project. After meeting a family of traditional sea salt producers during a Hindu ceremony, they quickly became enamored by the complicated process of sea salt harvesting that remarkably dates back some 1000 years since before the Majapahit Dynasty. By working with local producers to create BTF Balinese Handcrafted Sea Salt, not only is this sustainable sea salt harvesting process preserved from going extinct, but this collaboration also helps provide a higher standard of living for the producers.
BTF proudly exclaims of making these connections, “This was exactly what we have been wanting and waiting to do, find and support local creators/producers/artisans and help them find a market so they could continue exactly what they have always been doing.” The handcrafted Balinese sea salt product was soon succeeded by wildcrafted Balinese long peppers and they are on the continual hunt for new innovative products that will promote and sustain local, small, artisanal producers. Other products include Heritage Palm Sugar, Single Varietal Tropical Honeys, Bali Wild Cacao, Flores Farm Cashews, BTF Farm Gate Bulk Spices, and Island Crisps which you can find nationwide at Whole Foods and William Sonoma or locally in your state.