The Farm, Crops, and Infrastructure
The farm is located in the small municipality of Buenavista, Quindio Department. The town has about 2,200 residents and some 3,000 others are spread throughout the rural neighborhoods. The farm is an hour walk, or a 15 to 20-minute ride outside of the town in the neighborhood called Los Juanes, characterized by the canyon it borders with a small river passing through the bottom of the canyon. The farm is part of the western Colombian Andean mountain range and is volcanic in origin. The weather is sub-tropical rainforest with two rainy seasons (April and November) coinciding with the coffee harvest seasons (making it more difficult and costly to dry coffee).
Coffee: The farm was initially only Castillo, which is considered one of the best and most common Arabica varieties in Colombia. We have planted the latest variety that follows Castillo with all the qualities and flavors of Castillo, but with enhanced productivity. We have also planted highly-regarded Arabica varieties valued for flavors (Geisha, Bourbon, and Tabi). There are two harvest a year during the periods April-May and November-December. The beans don’t mature on a plant all at the same time so harvesting is a continual hand-picking process during the 2 months periods of maturity. Our goal is to continue developing expertise in not just specialty washed coffee beans, but increasingly in processing for ‘honey’ coffee and ‘natural’ coffee, both of which demand longer and more careful scientific fermentation and drying of the beans. The quality of the beans depends of many factors including quality of the harvested ‘cherry’ (perfectly ripe), size, lack of defects in the ‘cherry’ including ‘broca’, which is an insect unintendedly introduced from Africa that eats into the bean, and quality of processing and drying.
Plantains are a staple food in Colombia and most of Latin America; more important than potato. They provide shade to the coffee trees and managed well provide another source of income on the farm to help pay farm costs especially when there is no coffee to sell.
Cacao is a plant that people fall in love with. Cocoa in the era of Mayans was more valuable than gold in their culture. We too loved the idea to grow, harvest, ferment and dry this golden product and planted 1,200 trees. At our altitude is somewhat of an experiment, but because of the favorable micro climate above the valley that heat up in the day, so far, the cacao trees are performing excellent.
Fruit trees are spread throughout the farm, including many varieties of limes, oranges, mandarins, pomegranate, avocado, papaya, guava, and other tropical varieties. They are meant to provide shade, support bird biodiversity, and farm fruits.
For the love of animals we installed a small gated area and handsome stable to keep a milk cow and horse. The cow’s name is cinnamon and the young colt horse is called Imara of Quimbaya. He is mixed pure breed of Quarter Horse and Belgium Horse, both relaxed and noble breeds great for horseback rides. Besides the land in cultivation and left in conservation around springs and their streams, the farm consists of the following infrastructure: the farm house; drying platforms (‘elba’ in Spanish); the processing building to remove the coffee cherry shell and wash the beans to ferment prior to drying to remove the mucous inside the shell; a small cacao fermentation house; separate storage areas for dried coffee, tools, and chemicals; chemical mixing area and shower; and chicken coop, firewood storage area, clothing drying area, and trash bin area, all under roofing.
Operational structure of ABARIM (and typical small and medium size coffee farms in Colombia)
Small family coffee farms are worked and managed by the family unit with occasional hired workers such as during time of coffee harvest. With the area and number of coffee trees, ABARIM cannot be maintained with the work of only a few people. On farms like this the structure is generally the owner, a farm work manager and wife (cooking for all and maintaining the farmhouse clean), and workers whose number depends on the need. Sometimes the owner is also the farm manager/administrator; in our case we (owners) hire an experienced farm administrator who makes decisions on work priorities and farm needs on a week by week basis with a vision for the long term together with owners. Diofanor visits the farm 3 times a week to walk the farm, examine the work, and provide guidance to Leiner.
Coffee farms also have a uniform daily schedule: first shift 6.30-8.00 am (breakfast 8-8.30), second shift 8.30-12.00 (lunch 12.00-13.00), and third shift 13.00-16.30 (supper at 16.30). Unless with worker agreement in time of harvest to work weekends, coffee farms pay workers only Monday-Friday. On our farm and most farms, three meals a day are provided to all at the owner’s expense. For workers who wish to sleep on the farm (because it is too far or not possible to return to their own home) lodging is provided free of cost with worker showers and toilets.
Every Friday a summary of all work and workers is prepared and this is the basis of payment with signature of agreement and receipt. There is a uniform daily payment except under certain conditions, for example: 1. the worker is working under an agreed contractual basis, such as a rate per hole prepared when planting many new coffee plants, a rate per kg of coffee beans harvested during harvesting season, or a rate per area cleared of weeds and grasses using what we call a weed-whacker (guadano in Spanish). And the farm work manager has his own negotiated rate.
At least on our farm, we pay for internet that everyone on the farm uses, and have recreational activities in the evening like games, dominos, horseshoes, music, tejo (a game originating from the indigenous Indians that involves throwing a small heavy metal disk to a target fixed in clay), etc.
Nature and Nurture
Maintaining and improving the natural assets of the farm are very important to us. Traditional coffee processing with large amounts of water can be polluting because of the high concentration of nutrients from the washed coffee beans. For this reason, our farm has a top of the line system of water treatment tanks and prepared underground canal so that when the water enters the soil it is already safe of nutrients. We protect catchment areas and spring water with vegetation, and we plant fruit and other trees specifically for soil conservation and biodiversity (esp. bees, birds and butterflies). Five hundred native trees were planned in 2019 to conserve and protect water catchments on farm and for the benefit of water flowing to the lower catchment in the canyon and then beyond (ultimately flowing to the Caribbean). To date, Jimmy has photo documented some 65 bird species on the farm using a Nikon Coolpix P1000 with tremendous zoom capability. A selection of the best 75 are being mounted and offered to the Catholic Church of Buenavista for fundraising.