We are planting just 500 Caturra babies on the farm. Should be able to get these holes dug and in the ground easily over the next two days. Today, we just have a very few bushes scattered across the farm. Caturra is a shorter stockier plant than most coffee varietals. It is very pretty and perfect hedging material. As this entire farm is a coffee garden we are going to plant a Caturra border hedge around some of the rose garden.
Plants on the right are the good ones. We have put them in rows to get air between them and with the morning sun.
Plants to the left are trash. We sorted through them today....they will need to be returned to the vivero from which they came - not worth the 40 cents a piece they cost.
Frantically looking for about five thousand baby coffee plants to put into the farm in May/June when it starts to rain. That will give me about 5.5K to plant out.
Only about 500 out of the 1000 in the picture will be worth taking care of, the rest are trash. No point putting in less than a perfect plant as the real cost is in caring for it.
Ideally seeds should have been sown in December for planting six months later. So, I am too late this year to do my own and was not geared up to do it anyway. I need to buy from the viveros around town. Unfortunately, this is fraught with problems. People do a better job when it is for themselves or their own farm, and that is just a fact of life here.
Planting coffee seeds should not be so hard but apparently it is. Often the bags are not stuffed with soil so the roots do not grow all the way down but stop half way. Sometimes, the beans were planted the wrong way up so the root is crooked. Sometimes, they are just not cared for right and get rust and other fungal diseases. They also need to be fertilized often to get a good start.
Looking for a mixture of varietals. Interestingly all we have found in the nurseries around town is Catuai and Geisha.
Geisha although much heralded is not perfect for my farm. The full taste will not come out at my altitude and I am left with an odd sized bean to try to roast with the rest. Judging by the quantities of Geisha now being produced it looks like Boquete will be half Geisha in 10 yrs time. I am not sure that is a good thing.
Most of the farm is already Catuai. It is a very nice coffee but susceptible to red rust and other fungal problems. This is a big issue right now and almost every year at this time on my farm and others around town.
I think we will have to start our own vivero to start growing coffee beans in black sacks. I want to plant some Caturra and more Typica. I like the idea of Caturra as it is disease resistant and frankly a better looking bush to put closer to the house. They tend to be shorter bushier plants and easy to pick.
Lovely juicy red and yellow cherries from the top lot on the farm. Working our way around to the other lots over next few days. These are cherries we will keep to dry and process in Boquete and hopefully to roast as well. Mainly Red Catuai with some Caturra and one bush of yellow Catuai, that must have been an accidental planting.
Last week we sold some early cherries to the best paying Beneficio in town. The prices this year are really good for these early, considered not the highest quality, cherries - $9.30 for 30lb. There is very low volume at this stage but I did manage to bank nearly $300 and that almost pays for my main worker for a month.
The system of measurement is a little confusing. Workers get paid in latas. A lata is approximately 30lbs but not always. It depends upon the density of the cherries and early cherries will be less dense than later ones. Last week, the workers were paid $3 per lata. This is a very good rate, I think the highest, but is fair because early on the cherries are not so easy to pick, they have to leave behind good green berries and just pick out the ripe ones. Later on the price for picking usually drops.
My coffee manager dropped by this morning to tell me that the prices are rising and we will get even more if we have anything next week. Lets see what the weather is like, it has been very hot and sunny for the rainy season, so we might.
At the beneficio you back up your truck in a queue of backed up trucks. You then unload the sacks and pour them into the big metal weighing machines. I can not actually lift a sack of beans so the workers on the truck or the guys in the beneficio help.
Then once the number of pounds has been recorded, a receipt ticket is issued and the whole lot is dumped into a huge container where all the farms different cherries are mixed together. You then go to the counter with the receipt ticket and get a check and a pink slip with the amount and amount paid per pound.
My beans are mainly Caturra and some Catuai at this point and a very few typica. These were mixed with my neighbors coffee which contained yellow Catuai and I am not sure what else. The yellow Catuai is obviously very distinctive. My neighbor's workers were were delivering the truck in front of me.
You can see how quality may be lost this way. There is no real incentive here to pick the very ripest very best cherries and varietals are all bundled together. As we progress through the season, the lower altitude (still high altitude) berries of high quality will be mixed with the very first poor quality cherries of the higher altitude farms. Any unique terroir of the farm is lost. Good soil crops mixed with bad soil crops and organic or pesticide/herbicide free farms mixed with people who spray willy nilly. This is not a quality driven business process.