Pleasant surprises were all we had during our visit with the family of Jorge Alfaro! The Alfaros invited us to stay in their home and spent a whole day giving us a tour of their very professionally run coffee farm- Rancho Carmelo. We have great appreciation for the warmth the Alfaros expressed to us. What a beautiful family!
Before talking about our tour of the coffee farm, I should explain that the coffee we import from the Alfaros farm will be dedicated to the support of the Good Shepherd Children’s Home and Medical Clinic in the neighboring town of Quetzaltenango. Coffee from Guatemala, helping the people of Guatemala. We’re joining together (this includes you!) with the Alfaro’s and the Good Shepherd Project to help make a difference in the health and lives of orphaned children in that region as well as the poor Mayan population.
We’re importing the early crop of high altitude coffee from Rancho Carmelo as soon as the season is here. January begins the new crop year for beans at the highest altitudes on Jorge’s mountain. After processing, the beans are rested for a period of two months, making the area’s best coffee ready for export in March. That’s when we’ll see the coffee here in Raleigh! Woohoo! Can’t wait!
Our first stop was to the nursery where several varieties of the Arabica species of coffee are being raised. Different varieties grow better at the various altitudes on the mountain, or are more resistant to frost, or have more market appeal. I counted Caturra, Catimor, Pache Colis, Geisha, MundoNovo, and other varieties. Also growing in the nursery were varieties of indigenous shade tree to be planted amidst the coffee plants.
Next we all piled into the back of the 1974 4WD Toyota truck that took us up the road to the coffee fields. This road took 5 years to build. Prior to that harvesters packed the 100 pound bags of coffee fruit on mules and on their backs. It would take all day. The road has helped everyone a lot!
The pasture between the lower altitudes and the coffee fields is beautiful! The Alfaros maintain bee hives there and make their own honey. It’s coffee honey! (Of course I got some!!) We also noted livestock and horses grazing. It is a most pastoral setting.
We went to the lower altitude coffee fields that are ripe right now. Rancho Carmelo works with Anacafe, the Guatemalan Coffee Assoc, to research effective fertilization. This is a research lot.
Jorge showed us the effect of La Roya – Rust. Its a fungus that afflicts many Central and South American coffee farms. There are no organic treatments to protect crops from this disease, so many farmers face the decision to forfeit their organic certification to save their livelihood. The Alfaros choose to preserve their livelihood. I would too.
Jorge is a compassionate man and we often saw him this way with his family and his workers. In fact, for the many harvesters who come from great distances to work on his farm, he built a church on his property to provide a place of worship for them.
Back at the processing mill, some workers were washing some freshly harvested beans.
These machines separate the pulp, or fruit, from the beans. The pulp ends up in that pile in the back. The pulp is then moved into compost bins where worms are introduced. They feed on the pulp and digest it. The result is rich organic compost used in the nursery for new plantings as well as up in the coffee fields.
These are best agricultural practices, and nothing goes to waste. Even the water used in washing the beans is recycled and filtered before being returned to the ecosystem.
I can’t wait to get this coffee into Raleigh and get it roasted! If you want a bag, you better speak up!
Jorge and Lili explain their contribution: https://vimeo.com/82045997