Spending a week in Colombia, my first time in the beautiful country, was truly a whirlwind with multiple purposes. I skirted the countryside, starting in the town of Gigante in the department of Huila, then passing through Guadalupe, Pitalito, La Plata, and ending in Tambo and Timbio, both in the department of Cauca.
The first goal was to deliver results from the survey on microlots that 122 producers in three states participated in during January and February of 2013. Not only were results delivered, but together we dug deeper to uncover greater meaning in some of the results and continue adjusting research questions as well as the greater research purpose. All told I was able to speak with 101 of the 122 participants in a series of 5 meetings in 5 separate towns. As Nelson Ramirez, Virmax’s Director of technical training who accompanied me the first three days, said, “This is a marathon!” The majority of the survey respondents are not ones from whom Counter Culture purchases coffee. However, seeing the overlap in their responses to the survey will only aid us in understanding our supply chain in addition to the overarching situation facing high quality producers in Colombia.
Part two contains reflections that bring together analysis on this segment of the research. Some of their reactions were more surpising than others. Perhaps most surprising to me was their enthusiasm that they would indeed love to participate in a similar study in the future – they are honored that someone down the supply chain values their day-to-day experience enough to ask detailed questions. In addition, I loved hearing what else they thought would be important to study pertaining to the cultivation of specialty coffee. I am sitting on a ton of information – if anyone is looking for a research project, holler!
The second goal was to spend time with our old friends at Organica, purveyors of La Golondrina coffee. This group is one that has truly ridden the waves of hard times, under the strong leadership of Nelson Melo, and continues to prove themselves as fighters and committed to specialty coffee. Not only did I share the survey results with them but we shared meals, sat in on a board of director’s meeting, and, of course, visited producer’s on their farms.
Lastly, Nelson Melo has been building a relationship with a nearby cooperative over the last three years. He was eager to have Counter Culture make the acquaintance of Federación Campesina de Cauca.
The trip was incredibly full in more ways than one and I am excited to share some of that with you here.
What follows are some of the overarching themes uncovered by the five meetings held in Gigante, Guadalupe, Pitalito, La Plata, and Tambo.
Over the course of these meetings I delivered results from the survey on microlots that 122 producers participated in during January and February of 2013. Not only were results delivered, but together we dug deeper to uncover greater meaning in some of the results and to continue adjusting research questions – as well as the greater research purpose. All told, I was able to speak with 101 of the 122 participants.
After sharing the research, each group responded to the following questions:
- Why did producers invest such a large amount of their premium money into fertilizer?
- Why did producers choose to renovate with variety Colombia more frequently than other varieties?
- How are producers overcoming current challenges in producing specialty coffee?
- What are they doing on their farms for this harvest that are practices they think will lead to higher quality?
- How was the process of being interviewed? And of receiving the results of the study in this way?
- If you could study anything else in regard to the production of specialty coffee, what would you want to study?
I hope you'll enjoy some of their answers as much as I did.
Thanks for the photos, courtesy of Alejandro Cadena and Nelson Ramirez.