We finally made it to our destination, the Agricultural Development Office for the Woreda (District) of Merti Jeju.
We were greeted by the staff and led to an office, brightened only by the sunlight.
Biniyam and I did our, now well-rehearsed, song and dance, of our Amharic-English presentation.
After a few clarifying questions, a young man in the corner, looked straight at me and said, “There is no need to look at other sites, our farmers are eager to try new crops and will want to work with you.”
Whoa, now. We just met, I’m not sure if I’m ready to close the deal just yet. How quickly, I realize that I’m not quite ready for this level of commitment.
We still have 4 sites to visit. What if they have something to offer that MJ can’t?
I explain that it is important that we visit all potential grape-growing areas to evaluate the growing conditions, farmer interest, land availability, and infrastructure.
As quality is critical to our mission and the success of this project, choosing a site is not something that can be done hastily. We need to make as informed of a decision as possible.
Additionally, Biniyam, who I have tremendous respect for and has extensive knowledge of grape growing in Ethiopia, is not as smitten with MJ. As he has worked with the state-owned farm and a private client in the area, he knows the challenges of the climate in MJ.
But, wine grapes have only been grown in the lowlands, where one concern is that the temperature is slightly too warm. No one has tried the highlands, where it’s cooler.
Do we take the risk of investing in a new area in search of the highest quality, but may encounter unknown challenges? Or do we grow in an area where we are familiar with the limitations and can anticipate potential issues?
For now, we’ll just have to take all these factors into consideration, while we finish our remaining visits.
I’m sorry, MJ, while I’m still captivated by your beauty, I think it’s best that I keep my options open for now. I’ll be in touch…