Our own third little wave
As I write this, and think about our little third wave, I am rewinding the clock back to 2011 when I acquired the farm. I tried looking for pictures to see what happened in 2012, 2013, and the first half of 2014. My conclusion was other than stumping everything to the ground: NOTHING happened! Sounds a little silly and dramatic, but since I did make the “WISE DECISION” to stump everything, there was not a lot of farming going on. I would basically go to the farm every so often, camp, walk around, and think about how overwhelmed I felt at seeing how long it takes for coffee to grow back. During this period of my life, I was busy working on the Guatemalan southeastern coast putting a row crop irrigation project together.
2014 was an important year for me. Marielisa stepped into my life and I had the opportunity to introduce her to the farm. I think saying that she fell in love with the farm and Sierra de Las Minas is a complete understatement! She has worked behind a computer for most of her adult life and could easily be described as a city girl, so farming was a totally new experience. That year we were harvesting some of the first coffee beans the farm had seen since the massive pruning of 2012, and at the time she asked me, “What are you going to do with those coffee cherries?” I told her that I really did not know what to with them, other than, to sell them to my neighbor because I din’t know how to process them, nor did I have any equipment to process them. And this marked the beginning of our adventure in Specialty Coffee, and more importantly, a love story of our own as we both journey through the experience of working together and learning how to grow, produce, harvest, and process specialty coffee.
Very shortly after that first little harvest Marielisa saw an ad in the newspaper announcing a specialty coffee course was about to start in Agexport, a Guatemalan local agency committed to teaching people to export products and services in various fields, and before I knew it, every Tuesday night for the following six months we were on our way to coffee school! What made that year so special was that we took everything we were learning at school and applied our new knowledge at the farm at the same time.
We were hooked! We no longer wanted to farm coffee in a conventional manner.
What is a conventional manner? Well, to farm coffee conventionally, all you need to do is do what everyone else does. For example, you could use all the new disease resistant varieties instead of holding on to the traditional old school varieties with superior cupping characteristics; you can also use conventional fertilizers that use heavy salts and metals instead or modern more environmentally friendly options; or harvest with little regard ignoring the maturity of beans being picked; use hot patios at the base of the mountain on the valley floor to speed dry the beans versus drying them slow up high on the mountain to preserve all of Café de Las Minas wonderful complexities.
We have had to invest and stretch our resources in a difficult coffee market. It takes a short glimpse to see current market prices to realize that at our expense rate and what we were doing is not very profitable in the short term. But, we knew in our hearts that if we do things differently, we would find not just buyers, but long-term relationships that would be willing to pay outside of the commodities market to acquire great coffee. We know that we are a small operation; We know that we want to be different and produce very Special Coffee; We know that we want our coffee served at Great Coffee Shops, but more importantly, we want Great Relationships with those who are passionate about coffee from farm to cup. Just like coffee drinkers want to know where their coffee comes from. We want to know who is roasting and drinking the coffee we produce.
The sense of community we feel, the smiles we receive, and the friendships we make through coffee, motivates us and makes our little sip of this Third Wave Coffee super enjoyable!