The fifth day my group (Advanced Spanish and Creative Writing) was on campus, we visited the Finca La Bella, a large cooperative farm that is composed of twenty or so families. It is a rather interesting community, but of course we couldn’t tour all of the land in a single day. This day we were privileged to tour the land of a woman named Eliza Mata.
Eliza gave us a short tour of her corner of the world. The modest amounts of coffee and bananas are enough to supplement her family as well as her vecinas, but whatever is leftover goes to the market. Eliza explained that while the coffee is labeled as orgánico, it is not officially certified. The extra fee of certification is just another cost to the production, in addition to the assumed losses they accrue from not using herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides (that would otherwise boost their yield).
Besides, the community of Monteverde is small enough that the buyers know exactly how the coffee is grown; they know they’re buying organic without paying for the label. When I interviewed Eliza about the difference between organic coffee in her farm y otros, she told me that el proceso es el mismo.
The tours of Finca La Bella allow Eliza and the other families to earn extra income, while at the same time, creating greater understanding of the process of sustainable coffee farming in layman’s terms (if you speak Spanish or bring a translator). Through the coffee bushes and banana plants Eliza led us back to an area where the sugar cane goes through a mill to create sugar cane juice (of which I was more than happy to participate).
If it was pressing your mind, I’m the one on the right that is smiling while putting sugar cane in the trapiche and avoid smashing my head on the revolving mill above me.
A small table displaying crafts features tiny felt quetzales and candies made from the same sugar cane juice that my group created. All made by hand, the tours, los productos de la finca, and these crafts help sustain these families.
In an ever developing world, it’s more important than ever to teach and promote small farm sustainability. Small farmers ensure quality coffee can be picked and dried in small batches that can easily be monitored and guaranteed fresh.Even the recycled paper packaging for the Café Orgánico is made in San Luis at the EcoBambu project, by hand, out of recycled waste paper from various local businesses. These methods of small farming and sustainability warrants these methods can be continued for generations, and will not be a detriment to the land over the years.
Besides, how cute is this packaging?
Blog post by Anna Adair, UGA Romance Languages and Latin American and Caribbean Studies student