Picking coffee at Santa Anita la Union

Agriculture

After Hurricane Stan we were only able to produce 25% of our contracted amount but our buyers supported us through this hard time.

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In Santa Anita we produce organic coffee and bananas.

Each household in the community has a 30 cuerda (1 cuerda = 21 meters²) parcel of arable land and is responsible for its cultivation.  During the harvest, the members of the cooperative process and ship their coffee together.  The pay that each member receives at harvest time is directly proportional to the amount of coffee that they hand in, minus the costs involved in exportation.  Our organic bananas are sold on the local market throughout the year.  Each member is responsible for their own production and this money helps on a day-to-day basis.  While we only have one harvest of coffee each year, bananas produce continually and provide a small inflow of cash in the coffee off-season.

Who We Sell To: Santa Anita produces organic, fair trade certified coffee and sells its coffee in the Fair Trade market.  Currently we sell all of our coffee to an importing cooperative called Cooperative Coffees.  Why do we sell on the Fair Trade market?  The conventional system of selling coffee involves a long chain of middle-men or “coyotes”.  At every link in the chain, money is siphoned off into their pockets, and the coffee farmer sees less of it.  The basic idea of Fair Trade is to eliminate as many coyotes as possible, leaving a shorter chain from producers to buyers.  In 2007, a pound of coffee sold in the local, conventional market for US$0.80.  In this same year, we sold our coffee on the fair trade market for US$2.10 per pound - obviously a large and important difference for us economically.  Also, with Fair Trade, we have developed enduring relationships with our buyers.  After Hurricane Stan, we were only able to produce 25% of our contracted amount but our buyers supported us through this hard time.

We also roast our own coffee here in Santa Anita.  To do this we must buy back some of our own coffee in "Oro" form and then we are able to roast, bag, and ship it.

How coffee is processed:


Coffee goes from our trees to your cups in this process:

  • Pick the coffee: The "cherries" (that's what the coffee fruit is called when it's on the tree) are picked by hand during October, November and December. Each coffee tree or bush may need to be picked once a week during those three months, as the fruit on a tree does not all ripen at once. The coffee grows on hillsides (some are very steep) and is picked and placed into baskets and/or sacks, which can weigh more than 50 kilograms. These are carried on the worker's back from the coffee field to the Beneficio, a distance that ranges from hundreds of yards to several kilometers.
  • Depulp - Ferment - Classify: The sacks and/or baskets of coffee beans are weighed and then dumped into the Beneficio Humido processing pools. Several feet deep and filled with fresh water, these pools allow any leaves and other materials to be quickly removed from the fruit. Then, the fruit is depulped. In this process, the outer, soft, fruity part is removed, leaving the interior "bean" with a hard shell around it. The coffee bean remains in the water bath for a day or more, fermenting a bit in the process. Once ready, the beans are graded. Highest quality beans are the heaviest and sink to the bottom of the pool; low quality beans are the lightest and float. The high-quality beans are separated for export sale; the low-quality beans are used locally.
  • Dry: The sorted beans are placed into sacks and moved to the Beneficio Seco, where they will be dried thoroughly using a combination of large concrete pads, sunshine and periodic raking combined with a wood-fired drier.
  • Sell as Pergamino - Ship as Oro: Once dried and graded, the beans with their hard shell (pergamino) are sold to processors whose equipment removes the shell and prepares the bean for roasting. These processors in turn sell the bean in its "Oro" form and ship the coffee to cooperatives, collectives, or individual roasters.
  • Roast: Typically, the organic coffee grown on small fincas like Santa Anita is sold to smaller, specialty coffee roasters like Just Coffee or Deans Beans. These roasters utilize their special equipment and expertise to turn Santa Anita "oro" into the many delicious blends and flavors favored by coffee drinkers.

Organic bananas growing at Santa Anita Drying coffee Carrying coffee beans out of the fields Coffee flowers
bananas
Drying coffee
Carrying coffee out of the fields
Coffee flowers