December 7, 2011
Today was a GREAT day! This morning I set off for the Aldea Global office to meet up with my contacts Warren and Ivania and make a plan for visiting producers. Warren and I chatted for a while as we waited for a 7 months pregnant (!) Ivania to arrive, and then they sent me off with the always-faithful Carlos (not Carlos el Bigote from Peru) to the farms. There was a quick moment when I thought that I would have to spend the day on the back of a motorcycle again, but luckily the bright green Aldea-mobile saved the day.
Out first stop was at our good friend don Primitivo Morran Herrera’s farm, San Francisco. As you might remember, Primitivo is the “man of many babies” but none of them were to be seen today. Primitivo wasn’t in his house, but we quickly found him by the characteristic whistle that farmers use to call to each other from mountain to mountain. Primitivo was hard at work picking coffee. Since it isn’t the peak of the harvest, Primitivo and his family are taking care of the picking instead of hiring workers. Last year Primitivo had a great year and we bought a lot of his coffee for our Direct Trade lot. This year he expects an even bigger harvest, and he is really excited at the idea of selling us his coffee again. With the direct Trade money from last year, Primitivo planted 2 new hectares of land and stocked his plant
nursery with 3,000 more plants (bringing his nursery total up to 7,000 plants). He was also able to repave his washing tanks and canals with new cement, and they look pristine. He used 5 bags of cement for the project. Next year, his plans are to cut and replant another 2 manzanas of land, which will ultimately increase his harvest after the
plants mature. Way to go, Primitivo!
Our next stop was to the house of don Ramiro, but unfortunately he wasn’t home, but out picking on his land that is pretty far away. I got to talk to his wife and kids, however, who are a lot more grown up than last year! From his Direct Trade money from last year, Ramiro bought 1 new manzana of land, and he has planted it this year. Investments for next year will be taking care of this new land and getting it ready for harvest the following harvest. Congrats on your
new land, Ramiro!
We then set off up the rocky road towards Don Isabel Hernandez’s farm, which is the farthest of them all, but definitely has the most beautiful view. We found don Isabel’s wife at his house, who showed us the general area where he was picking coffee. A quick hike and a loud whistle summoned Isabel from the fields, and he came up to meet us and talk about his harvest. Last year I visited Isabel’s farm, but he was not there. It was great to be able to speak with him at his house this time, and he had really high hopes for this harvest. Isabel is a very honest and passionate man, and a joy to talk to. Like all of the other farmers, he has had a very slow harvest, and hardly any coffee cherries are ready to pick right now. With his Direct Trade premium from last year he built a new water tank and washing canal about cement, as well as planted a new half manzana of land with coffee from his nursery. He was also able to buy a solar panel for electricity for the first time (along with a TV and DVD player and light bulbs) as well as a gas motor for pulping coffee. Before the motor, Isabel had to pulp all of his coffee by hand, so this will definitely speed up the process and help his coffee process a lot! Isabel was shy about talking about his new purchases, but he really did a great job last year, and his farm is looking ready for harvest to start in earnest. Next year he plans to start a new nursery and put in 3-4,000 new plants, as well as work on his shade management and cut some treest to renovate one manzana of land. Yay, Isabel!
We were quickly running out of time, so we made one last stop at the farm of Jose Andres Palacios. He also was out working far away on his land, so we chatted with his wife. Wives are very often shy about speaking on behalf of their husbands, but once you get them to open up, it is clear that they know much more about their land than the husbands do anyways! I was excited to see Jose Andres’ farm because he definitely needed the most improvement from last year. His wet mill was in disrepair, and his washing canal was non-existent. So I was ecstatic to see that not only had Jose Andres repaired his wet mill, he had built an entirely new one and tiled it with ceramic tiles as well! This is definitely the best wet mill and washing canal of all of the producers that I have seen, and I was so happy that he was able to complete this project in time for this years harvest! Jose Andres also built a new cement water tank that draws water from the river to use in processing coffee and bought a new truck to bring his coffee down to Jinotega to the Aldea Global warehouse. Next year he is getting ready to buy a new manzana of land as well as renovate an existing half manzana at the end of this harvest. Jose Andres really showed a lot of initiative in his farm improvements, and I think that it will really help him jump to the next quality level of Direct Trade. Hurrah, Jose Andres!
All in all, I was very impressed with all of the improvements and plans that the farmers in our Direct Trade Las Mercedes program had made. They are clearly committed to the project, and are excited about the idea of continuing to sell their coffee to us. The general feeling of commitment from the farmers is very strong, and I cant wait to visit them after the harvest to cup their coffees. After getting back to Jinotega, I had lunch with Ivania and then she walked me through their new transparency tracking system for their coffees. The system is incredible, and it allows Ivania to track everything from quantity, quality, payments received, and % of contracts completed from every farmer who is a member of the co-op. All of the farmers’ data is programmed into the system, including details such as coffee varietals, altitude, and water recycling processes. It is still a work in progress, but gives me great confidence in the organization and commitment of Ivania and Warren to our Direct Trade program and to the co-op in general. This is going to be a really great year for Direct Trade Nicaragua Las Mercedes!