Last month Ryan Hatt—Business Development Manager—traveled to Peru to visit coffee farmers who harvest Arbor Day Shade-Grown Coffee. Visiting the coffee farms builds our relationships with the farmers and gives us insight to the practices and the impact it has in their life and community. The following is a recap of Ryan’s week-long trip.
After driving up the Andes Mountains for nearly two hours we finally reached San Ignacio, a small community sitting close to 1700 meters above sea level. The area has a reputation for sourcing some of the best coffees in Peru. We still had to a ways to go beyond San Ignacio before reaching Miguel Ojeda Rodriguez and Clementina Melendres Neyra, the farmers who produced some of the Arbor Day Shade-Grown Coffee this year. Once we arrived at the farm we learned how growing coffee for the Arbor Day Foundation has helped Miguel and Clementina’s family. Two of their six children are still living on the farm and helping their parents grow the coffee. We toured the farm and learned about the diverse array of trees they have shading the coffee including Romarillo—a species of pine tree that grows in exclusive parts of the country and takes 500 years to reach full maturity. Romarillo trees are leguminous and very beneficial to coffee because they provide nitrogen to the soil and don’t compete with the coffee for nutrients. There were also areas on the farm where rows of smaller trees stood to act as a barrier within the farm and hold soil in place so it wouldn’t wash down the mountain.
Our next stop was at the farm of Amaro Chasquero Jaramillo and Natalia Ocana. Their farm was quite different from the farm of Miguel and Clementina. Their trees were much younger and were growing in a formerly deforested area. The farm was recently bought from a cattle farmer who was growing coffee and young trees simultaneously to reforest the area. Parts of the farm were entirely shaded by mature trees. Amaro explained how the leaves on the tree provide nutrients to the soil and maintain moisture in the ground, supporting the coffee shrubs. He also had elevated drying beds—which allows more air to pass over the coffee beans during the drying state while also shielding it from the rain. Amaro was great about repurposing everything on the farm, such as cherry pulp. He’d use the cherry pulp from the coffee and mix it was other organic matter to build a natural fertilizer that he would use back on the coffee and on his personal vegetable garden.
The following day we went on a four hour journey into the Amazonas Region of Peru to a small community called Lonya Grande. We met with potential farmers who may be interested in joining our coffee integrity program. Our program stands out from others because we offer higher premiums to the farmers, a small act that can make a difference.
On our last day of visits we went to Pangoya— a small farming community to share our mission with new farmers that may show interest in harvesting our coffee. Many of them expressed enthusiasm at hearing our mission of planting trees and shared their plans to plant 100,000 trees on 1000 hectares of land that had been deforested. Many farms in the area have been affected by slash and burn practices.
These coffee trips allow us to build stronger relationships with our farmers and strengthen our trust in one another. It’s rewarding to see how harvesting coffee for the Arbor Day Foundation can leave an impact on the families involved.
What is your preferred flavor of Arbor Day Coffee? Let us know in the comments below.