Our goal on starting out this site a year ago was to make the coffee farm sustainable and resilient to ups and downs in the market but to do it in a way that we could live with and enjoy. Literally, as I do live on my little farm with my five year old daughter so a healthy natural environment is important.
Strategy good; Executing it at times was challenging to say the least. So very glad we decided to try. Learned a lot about trying to get things done in a different culture and accomplished more or less what we set out to do:
- Processed a small quantity of our coffee to green beans and sold some roasted and some green which is the key to more stable and better margins than the cherry business.
- Met some whacky and interesting people while tasting coffee: Our customers the roasters and coffee enthusiasts..... and learned a bit about cupping too.
- Got to write for CoffeeGeek and start telling the story from the producers perspective. Very cathartic.
- Enjoy a healthier farm. We are weaning ourselves off chemicals. No chemical fungicide anymore, no pesticides, very limited use of herbicide and none around the mature coffee plants
- Made some big strategic decisions to renew the majority of the farm; Bit the bullet on lower production to get stronger healthier and higher yielding plants in a couple of years
- Learnt quite a bit about coffee farming. Still a complete novice but know people who are experts and have some idea now how to pick, prune, plant, fertilize and test soils
- Get to drink an almost unlimited supply of my own coffee!.
The most important thing of all: It was a year of finding the right people to work with. That is one of those truisms that I have re-discovered here big time. In my old life, finding good people was mostly an interview process or reputation or both.
Here it has been more trial and error and that is painful. Spanish is not good enough and understanding of the culture is not good enough to get to the bottom of things in a conversation. Reputation seems to come down to whether someone is a 'good person' or a 'tricky person'. Lets just say there are many shades of 'good person' and frankly how 'good' a person is often depends upon who you are and as a Gringa I am a nobody. Often other people have no interest in pointing out to you the 'tricky' part as they are themselves offloading an employee or just don't feel the need to be candid.
For me 'good person' = Who shows up when they say or keeps you informed of delays or problems, who works hard to deliver, who does not over charge, is not lazy and never steals or takes advantage even though I am an obvious Gringa target for that, who tells you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth even when it is ugly, who laughs at the same things you do and shares your values, who takes pride in quality and the invisible part of the job that in the end is everything...... It all equates to trust and who you can do business with in the longer term to generate value.
At last I feel like I am close to being surrounded by people I trust and work well together and through them I meet more people and so on. With the right team everything is possible.