March 25, 2015
The final day, and also today was also farm visits day! It is always the best day of the trips by far. After having cupped through the Direct Trade lots yesterday, Pieter, Javier and I set off to visit some of our oldies but goodies, as well as a couple of new farmers who had great cup scores this year. Pieter is an adventurous soul, and also happened to rent a truck with 4 wheel drive, so we picked up Javier at 7:30 this morning and set off for the farms.
Our first stop was to Maria Estanislada, whose coffee cupped at 83.5 points yesterday, a very admirable score. Maria’s farm is one that I have heard a lot about, but had never had the chance to visit. Luckily we caught her at home first thing in the morning, and we talked a little about her farm and family. Maria and her husband have 18 manzanas of land together, 5 of which are registered in her name. They both manage all of the land together, but Maria is a member of Aldea Global while her husband is not. This year together they produced a total of 300 quintales, which is about equal to 30,000 lbs. of coffee. Last year she received 313,000 cordobas for her direct trade premium, which is a considerable amount. This was invested in inputs for her farm, such as fertilizers, helping to pay for labor, and renovating some of her land. 18 manzanas is larger than average for this region (1 manzana is approximately 1.75 acres), and visiting Maria’s wet mill was definitely an eye opening experience. Compared to her surrounding neighbors, Maria has a giant wet mill. Inside there are a total of 5 ferment tanks, 3 of which are tiled with ceramic tiles (done this past year). She also has a mechanical pulper that is a Costa Rican model that is of very high quality, as well as a newly constructed compost pit for all of her cherry pulp. This sophistication in a wet mill is rare in these parts, and I have never seen a mill like this on a small farm. Many congratulations to Maria!
Our next stop was to our good friend Agustin Reyes, who just had a nasty battle with a chainsaw, but came out ok in the end. Agustin had a very small harvest this year, something that I heard from a lot of farmers throughout the day. This was mainly predicated by the climate conditions of this past year, the battle with leaf rust, as well as a really weak flowering after last year’s harvest. In total Agustin’s harvest was very small, and while he would have liked to invest in his home, he andhis wife decided that they should wait for next year when they will have more coffee from some renovated land before they spend any more money on improvements. This sentiment, while seemingly sensible, is a huge deal in this region of Nicaragua. First and foremost, Agustin made a decision together with his wife, which in itself is rare, and second, they have had enough financial training and familiarity with the credit process through Aldea Global that they were able to make an informed financial decision for their family.
We passed by a couple of other farms where no one was home, including the mother daughter pair of 86 cupping coffees from yesterday. It was a shame to not be able to see them but I am still so pleased that their coffees cupped so well. The next farmer we found, or rather didn’t find, was Don Primitivo. We did get to spend some time sitting with his wife, however, and got the news on how the farm performed this year. Primitivo has purchased a new truck, which was really a sight to see on his farm! It is only used to transport coffee into town, but still is a considerable investment. Primitivo is getting older and has been thinking in the future of his children. Because of this, he has legally transferred ownership of 4 manzanas of his land to his daughters, who now have legal rights and farm the coffee there on their own.
Lastly, but certainly not least, we stopped by Ramiro and Carlota’s house, a husband and wife tag team who are both members of Aldea Global. Both Ramiro and Carlota have coffee growing land, but Carlota’s was inherited from a familymember and is still not legally registered in her name. She hopes to get the paperwork completed this year through the women’s coffee program at Aldea Global, which would be great if that were something that we could support. Ramiro has finished his harvest but is preparing the plants in his nursery to plant this summer. He has had a hard time controlling coffee leaf rust, so he is replacing his caturra trees with a catuai varietal which is easier to control and still has a high quality cup. With Ramiro and Carlota’s premiums last year, they both used them to build a house for Carlota that is closer to her parcel of land. She works this on her own, and it is really important to her that she be able to stay near the land during harvest and farm labor intensive times. It was great to be able to see this new house, it still smells like fresh wood from construction, and see how supportive Ramiro has been of his wife.
All in all Pieter and I had a great day. I always am honored to be able to introduce members of Farmer Brothers to the work that we are doing on the ground level at origin, and I hope that Pieter and I can brainstorm a way to transmit this message to the rest of our supply chain management team. For now, we are full of Nicaraguan tortillas and getting ready to head back home tomorrow. Hasta La Proxima, loyal readers!