La Esmeralda: Regenerative specialty organic coffee farm.
Felipe Ramirez Echeverry.
La Esmeralda, farm in the Municipality of Circasia is located at 1400 meters above sea level. Approximately 10 kilometers from the capital of the department. We have been working in this area for about 9 years with different varietal of coffee, a different coffee growing model.”
Previously on this farm 30 years of continuity in the hands of Felipe’s father-in-law, there was a conventional coffee crop, according to the guidelines of the federation.
Since they started with a new project, the first thing they did was to eradicate the coffee plantation and start from scratch with an “agroforestry” system in which they basically have shady transitional type:
Higuerillas (shrub plant, castor bean) and Musáceas (banana) especially plantain and banana and also have some final shady with forest trees mainly trees in the area that are excellent for nitrogen fixation such as Guamos is a process that has always been working without chemical synthesis products, everything is an organic agriculture process, initially it is a slow moment, it is something very difficult, because the trees in this transition are susceptible, practically to all kinds of pests, but once biodiversity begins to enter, the banana grows , the castor grows, and the forest trees are also growing, those of the shade. It makes all the work much easier, especially weed management: Activity based on the selection of noble covers, which allow the conservation of the soil resource. The establishment of covers protects the soil from the impact of raindrops, the main cause of soil erosion.
Fertilization is also decreasing.
Decreasing the need for fertilization from sources exogenous to the farm. Everything is working with what the same litter “the molch” of the forest trees is generating. There is also a great decrease in the incidence of rust and there is a great decrease in the incidence of the borer(Broca) as consequence of the microorganisms that begin to inhabit here in the area and especially our production system. Thanks to biodiversity we basically refer to Lecanii for rust control and Beauveria bassiana for CBB control.
In general terms, it has been a transition process, initially slow, initially difficult, but once biodiversity is established, everything becomes easier. The coffee variety has become highly productive with above-average production rates and, additionally, the rate of the coffee is excellent it gives a differentiated cup of coffee. “We are getting sometimes, above 90 points and that is something very important to take into account, that is something very important to clarify, and that is that: “coffee from organic work does give good cup profile” … because normally what people do is that they demonize this type of production a lot, they say that the organic ones are very flat and that the organic ones do not taste, especially when they are organic varieties exotic arabicas, which is what we work here, so that’s already, It is something that is totally refuted, and we have also been able to knock down another myth and It is the lack of productivity generated by an organic system, <<it is not true>>, organic systems become even more productive than chemical synthesis coffee systems, because once the soil is detoxified, once the system is detoxified, they return to make more minerals available for all physiological processes of the plant including production obviously. We can also tell you that the increase of biodiversity has been very significant and we are extremely happy to have a greater variety of birds that previously were not arriving at the property. we even have other types of Mammals, we have several species and all this indicates that we are regenerating the soil and go back to natural fertility. All this generates a much more pleasant moments at work. It is easier in times of rain, in times of sun, obviously, it is better to be in a coffee plantation with a wide planting density, in a shady coffee plantation it is more pleasant and more comfortable to do the work.
Within that biodiversity, we plant different types of trees and plants that provide us with food. It is very important to bear in mind that on the farms you have to have crops other than coffee, you have to cover the needs of basic food for the peasant unit and also generate surpluses that can be sold. This is basically a coffee growing model, this is something that we dedicate ourselves to doing.
We decided to adopt this model of coffee growing in an agroforestry system because we see that it can meet the needs that conventional coffee growing is currently manifesting. First we have an environmental component as well, we have a social component and we have an economic component.
Because environmental we are helping to mitigate climate change through the capture of circulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and we do this with both coffee trees and shade trees.
We use a motto and that is that we take carbon dioxide and convert it into exotic flavors, so there, firstly, we mitigate climate change, and secondly, we contribute to improving biodiversity, which in general terms, coffee-growing areas have historically been in charge of destroying much of the habitat of wild animals with all the negative consequences that this entails, nevertheless, we also help the water cycle because naturally within the water economy it is essential to be able to have the trees that capture it from the atmosphere and deliver it to the soil within our social component for us it is It is essential to offer opportunities to people who have been in the countryside all their lives. Our entry into the world of the countryside occurs once we finish our professional training, both my wife and I came to live here with our children, very different from what happens with the majority of people, who live on their smallholdings, because it is important to keep in mind that more than 90% of the coffee farms in Colombia are small productive units and people do not have other job or study opportunities, nevertheless, what we did is that we offer to our administrator the opportunity in two fundamental areas of the transformation of the grain, which are “training in barista performance” and “training in production performance”. In fact, in 2020 he had the opportunity to be competing in the second coffee fair that is the most important in the country Expo Eje café 2020 that is carried in Armenia and for a single cup of coffee we was about to reach the second round. Additionally, we did what we could so that he participate in the part of the cup profile and puts his knowledge into practice, not only appear in a competition to be there for five or six minutes, so that people see him and return to the farm. He is also an active part of the profiling of the farm’s coffee cup. We gave our administrator the opportunity to learn and train, and now he is a key part component of the coffee-growing proposal that we have generated here. We can take into account that when one works with exotic Arabica coffee varieties, one can obtain, better flavors, because the caffeine content is lower and the sugar content is higher, therefore at the time of the fermentations the rates will give very differentiated flavors to what is normally handled today in the market these differentiated flavors together with a system Certified organic production allows us to achieve larger margins when selling our coffee. In fact, it is a coffee that the international community has great interest in, in the sense that it is harmless to the environment and harmless to the people we work with. In production and also for the people who are finally going to consume it and it has an exceptional flavor so here within these three pillars, I repeat the social, the economic and the environmental, we can see that organic coffee farming is the way out of the current crisis facing the coffee world in general terms. The price crisis is not only for Colombia, it is for all the countries that produce the grain so within this process, initially you have to make a slightly higher investment, for labor because when you do organic work It requires a little more wages, but all of that will be paid for overtime and it will be sustainable, which is what interests one the most.
The areas of the farm that I like the most, is where the huge Guamo is; this guamo that we have, this tree was worth a thousand pesos and it will be here providing us with an environmental service for several generations that we obviously hope that both children and grandchildren can continue with the process that we have been developing. On average one tree of these, generates a ton of litter per year and that litter will provide us with an optimal environment for the microorganisms that counteract pests to live, it will provide habitat for wild animals, it will provide protection from excessive sun, it will provide protection from excessive rains, and additionally generates landscaping that ostensibly improves the terrain, within this process we realize the most important thing that a tree generates for nutrition, is what we can see on the ground, the litter that mattress that forms litter is bringing us minerals from some very deep that the coffee trees will not find through their root system since the root system of the shade trees reaches deeper parts of the soil it provides it to the coffee trees through the surface so that they can nurture we want to share this with the WORLD and that people have the clarity that when a piece of land is acquired, one is working on a piece of land, it is not the first 70 centimeters that one exploits, but downwards is where all the minerals are, which are the that they are going to really give nutrition to the crop that is around and those minerals are going to be obtained is through, I repeat, the pivoting process that shade trees make and deliver it to the surface through their fruits and leaves.
Geisha coffee arrives in Colombia very scarce, that is, two years three years ago. It was practically impossible to obtain Geisha coffee seeds, it is now possible to obtain them, but it is still scarce because of its high value, because we have to learn to consume it, and above all, because very few producers had access to this type of seeds. We are cultivating it, rather as a hybrid that need science or with the ancestral knowledge that our grandparents teaches us on how to take that quality In the world of the field.
We won’t stop, united with our clients, we will be able to move our country forward because our commitment has no end.
The coffee agricultors directive in Colombia, suggest producing from 1,600 meters upwards and the use of inputs from chemical synthesis, our productive model, which intended is, to do the opposite here we are working with varieties arabica at 1400 meters above sea level without any input of chemical synthesis for most people this is crazy and this is not viable fortunately the theory on which we base our production system together with the work that was carried out, showed us that we were right, here we have trees that can give us up to 4 kilos of cherries a year without the need for any chemical synthesis input. I also repeat all the tasks that the farm has, such as the management of the weeds, the control of the drill bit, and rust control ends up taking care of it biodiversity we are very emphatic on the importance of biodiversity. A coffee monoculture in free exposure is the least suitable for the current and future needs of the market, since the quality of the cup is not going to be the best, the grains will not grow well, the trees will not be able to express their greatest genetic potential and productivity will be totally dependent on exogenous inputs. And the exogenous inputs is today one of the biggest problem as it makes it more expensive to produce coffee. Chemical synthesis petroleum derivatives are required, they generally come from other countries, that generates an additional cost, they also have to be transported from cities or towns to the farms, you have to pay for their application, and their effectiveness on the cultivation is not going to be 100%, so it is a series of costs or loses, both for the economic part and the environmental part that coffee growers are generating. Also It will never be rewarded because under this model nature is not compensated and under this model the economic effort that the producer makes, in this bad-way, in this degenerative productive system, is not compensated, basically once everything is established, I repeat, within the framework of the Biodiversity, the only work that one must pay for, in cultivation, is harvesting coffee since all other tasks are already beginning to be controlled through the work that nature generates as a whole. This is the best way to be sustainable and this is the best way to generate the highest margins for coffee farms and people should also take into account that when a coffee is exotic and has organic certification, along with fair trade and social work certifications, it will be a coffee that will have a much higher margin on the market, and sold for higher prices. We suggest and invite all coffee producers, who want to continue in the activity, naturally generating surpluses, generating profitability, to redirect their systems, we want to make it clear, that initially the transition process will take a while, but once this transition process occurs, and your crop adapts, you can be fully certain that you will be able to continue in the activity and you will be able to reach it, it is better to make an effort, a change, a transition than simply taking that cheap decision , that many growers in different parts of the country have made: Eradicate coffee plantations.
This is an activity that gives us an identity, a culture, both, because throughout the region and the country, coffee is our flagship product and what we have to do is adapt it, so that it can continue to be our flagship product and go back to that example when the coffee farmer, was a peasant patriarch empowered by his situations and not turn this into an activity in which people are constantly experiencing economic hardships, and thinking about how they can redirect their farms, we can continue generating coffee, we can go on producing the best coffee in the world, all we have to do is rethink for healthy futur, give value to the entire chain and thus be able to perpetuate the activity that is, what we are passionate about, what we are in love with, proudly Colombians.
Oscar Antonio Osorio
Oscar comes from the city of Manizales, the first thing that he started working in, has been cattle farming, he was in Manizales for 23 years and was fortunate to meet Mr. Felipe Ramírez who told him that he came to Quindío to work in coffee farming, but until that day he didn’t know anything about coffee. “I have learned a lot everything that is from coffee something that has stayed with me, Mr Felipe made me participate in a cupping session for coffee tasting challenge, I was about to go to the last round, so far, for one point I couldn’t make it. Thanks to Mr. Felipe who gave me the support. Here, I go well with the help of God the coffee is very good, I knew nothing about coffee, I was drinking coffee with Sugar, I was reheating it, and now no more, as coffee is naturally sweet, and cold is tastier then hot, when the quality is selected and well grown. The organic one here at Finca las Esmeraldas is very good, here on the farm, I take care of the coffee, fertilizing and so… being Organic, any other little things that one does, always turn out. All over the crop, we use shade for organic, we no longer use chemicals, it is always dubbed and raised by hand so as not to affect the roots, because that is where the plague can enter the sore and the coffee can also die from a lack of shade, the future of coffee as we produce it, will be safe. Because since it is organic is very useful for the people because they do not depends on the chemicals, as people are getting sick and dye because of the chemicals. Well, to conclude, I invite all the coffee growers to join in planting organic coffee and sow more shady. Forget the Federation extension service already, because previously there was a lot of shadiness and now they are making it fall down to put more coffee in it and that is not convenient because the coffee, the vegetation, the animals and all that is already going to fall