These coffee producers, with farms averaging three hectares, are all members of the Macizo association. They resolved to start the co-op with the aim of entering the specialty coffee market in order to improve their income and strengthen their community.
In 2003, a project called Las Mingas began with the coffee producers of APCEJOR, or ‘Asociación de Productores de Café Especial El Jordan’ which recently merged with ACEDGA to form the Macizo cooperative, and our Virmax partners. Las Mingas has helped the producers maximize the potential of their coffee through education and training. The project has allowed Stumptown the opportunity to have the first look at the top coffees, while the rest gets bulked off and sold as a group. In 2013, they began using their new warehouse in Planadas to receive and evaluate the coffee as it is harvested and prepared. Since coffee has recently become economically viable, an unusually high percentage of young farmers produce high quality coffee in the remote, rugged, war torn region of Planadas de Tolima.
Stumptown remains the only buyer in the area who maintains traceability of coffee, fixed price agreements and incentives with long term, multiple year contracts in an effort to bring security and stability to the farmers. A heavy military presence still exists in Tolima, but the people are ready to see the end of the conflict and transition to a less volatile and more secure situation. Coffee helps. Each year, more local farmers see the benefits of Direct Trade and decide to pursue quality coffee. The quality continues to improve as more folks emulate the way the original farmers involved process their coffee.
In the Central Mountain range of Colombia’s Andes Mountains, nestled beneath the shadows of the magnificent Nevado del Huila within the Tolima province, lies the small town of Gaitania de Planadas, home to a small, but growing enclave of dedicated coffee farmers responsible for El Jordan.
Nevado del Huila, an active volcano, is a beautiful snow-capped mountain with a summit which lies 5,365 meters above sea level. Due to the volcanic activity, the area surrounding the Nevado del Huila is among the most fertile in Colombia and provides an excellent microclimate for growing coffee. Numerous rivers are born in the hills of the Nevado and wildlife species inhabit these slopes with staggering landscapes. In spite of having one of the most beautiful and best coffee growing conditions in the country, the geographic conditions ensure that the region remains quite inaccessible. Gaitania is located only 100 km from Neiva and 250 km from Ibague, yet it can take over six hours to get there over steep hills and rugged roads. A long history of influence from guerrilla groups that have controlled the region for over 40 years increased the inaccessibility of the region. Despite these challenges, the coffee producers of Gaitania continue cultivating their coffee with pride and care.
The newer farmers in the group made investments in their infrastructure to accomplish their goals. They began to pre-dry their parchment and built covered, raised beds to ensure the parchment dries evenly for a consistent cup despite Gaitania’s frequent wet and humid weather. They retiled their tanks to provide a better environment for controlled fermentation. Some of them also replaced older depulpers and invested in plant nutrition while learning to combat cycles of leaf rust. They rely on the full cupping lab installed in Gaitania in 2009 to cup and analyze each lot of coffee which encourages instant feedback and quality improvements.
The coffee pickers get paid higher premiums which ensures only ripe cherries are harvested. The producers depulp their coffee into fermentation tanks using hand cranked depulping machines. Naturally fermentation occurs for 18-20 hours in tanks prior to washing and drying on parabolic beds. This coffee is proof of a working relationship where the coffee continually improves.
New in 2014:
This year, the producer group grew to 40 members as the stability and security offered by Stumptown’s arrangements has enticed new farmers to join the producer group, invest in their infrastructure and reap the benefits of cultivating high quality coffee.