The Mendoza Family
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What generation coffee farmer are you?
I am the second generation. My parents started producing coffee and still are producing coffee.
How many years have you been producing coffee?
I've been helping with the production of coffee since I was a little girl. I've been producing coffee on my own since 2008.
What is your favorite part of producing coffee?
I like harvesting. I just take the perfectly ripe cherries, a selective harvest.
What is the hardest part about growing coffee?
Well, every part of the job is tough. From selecting the best cherries to drying. For example, we are very careful to make sure that all the coffee cherries have been removed by the end of the season, even the bad ones, to prevent the coffee borer beetle. We have to deal with rain a lot which effects drying and quality. Drying was hard before, we had to move the coffee more and constantly cover and uncover it. Now we have covered raised beds which helps a lot.
What challenges do you face?
Climate at times, for example right now the coffee is flowering and the plants need rain, but it hasn’t been raining. Or during the harvest it rains and we don’t want it because it makes it much more dangerous.
What we're focusing on most right now is figuring out how we can build more drying beds to better manage the drying process and resulting quality of the coffee.
What challenges does your community face?
The roads. We don’t really have maintained roads. Sometimes neighbors work together to help repair or make parts of the road. The roads we do have are dirt and the dust makes us sick. And the schools maybe, but the kids are used to walking long distances to school each day.
How has climate change affected production?
Where we are located, I don’t really notice anything. We had a great year with good sun and rain. Every year it is a little different.
What plans do you have for your farm?
We are planning on building additional covered and raised drying racks. The drying process is very important for the quality of coffee and the raised beds keep the coffee clean.
Do you produce anything else on your farm?
For our own consumption we raise chickens and guinea pigs so we don’t have to purchase meat. We grow tomatoes, green onions, leeks, and guavas.
How has the whole coffee production process changed over the years from harvesting to selling?
We were on our own before, now the associations have agronomists which help us improve quality and help us through any issues. Working together with other producers helps us all feel strong and more united.
What makes you feel the most proud about being a producer of coffee?
That my family and I enjoy our own coffee. For years we produced coffee, but we purchased coffee from the store. When we drink our own coffee we feel proud and makes us want to continue improving.
We know when we put in more effort our coffee will come out better and we’ll get paid better. Before we sold our coffee at the local commercial markets, but now we work as specialty producers selling to clients through the association.
What would you like to say to the people drinking your coffee?
I want to tell them to keep consuming our coffee and enjoying the flavors and aromas. I want to say that our coffee is clean and we put a lot of effort into the quality. More women now than ever are producers showing we have more patience in our work, we are strong, and proud. I want to tell them that they can put trust in us to produce a coffee of high quality, organically.
Photo-op with some lingering coffee from the final harvest of 2020. During the multiple harvests from July to October Nieves and family spend days selectively hand picking only the matured coffee cherries.
Seasoned hands make quick work picking only the ripest coffee cherries. Varietals such as their yellow caturra turn a brilliant golden color when ripe.
Raised and covered drying beds provide excellent air circulation for even drying and protection from the elements. The Tantaleans constructed their drying beds onsite to reduce the amount of traveling required.
Hand cranking hundreds of kilos of coffee cherries is a serious workout. Nieves and family will spend hours de-pulping the coffee to ready it for secondary fermentation.
A nursery with a view. The hundreds of coffee seedlings here will spend the next few months awaiting to be transplanted as new finca growth and replacements for older plants.