The Coffee Farm

09/10/2018

Coffee starts out as a seedling. A coffee cherry is smooshed open and the seed planted in sand where it stays until it sprouts and becomes large enough to transplant to the nursery. There it grows for up to two years before it is planted with the rest of the coffee plants. From there it is picked by hand and dumped into bins that the pickers wear around their waists. At the end of the day, they separate the ripe from the unripe coffee "cherries" and leave them on the side of the road for pickup. The cherries are then transported to the "beneficio" (coffee processing plant) by truck.
 

The Nursery :

Coffee and shade trees are grown in the nursery for up to two years before they are transplanted to the coffee fields. During this time (depending on the farm) pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers are applied as needed to ensure that the seedling grows well and disease-free. This is the most critical phase of growth and there is a very high percentage of death among young coffee plants. Shade trees are also grown in the nursery and planted among the coffee plants. This provides shelter from the sun and fertilizer in the form of decaying leaves that fall from the shade trees. It is also eco-friendly, providing shelter and habitats for birds passing through the area.

Coffee and shade trees grow:

Young plants can be seen growing here. Soon the plants will be dispersed in the coffee fields. It takes up to 3-5 years for a coffee plant to reach maturity and even more than that for a shade tree to grow to the right height.

Coffee plants blossom and produce fruit:

A mature coffee plant will bear fruit in a specific season, but can have ripe and unripe fruit on the same tree at any given time. The coffee pickers move through the fields and remove the ripe cherries and leave the unripe fruit. They can return later in the season when the remainder of the fruit has ripened. A single coffee tree will produce on average about one pound of (roasted) coffee a year. It takes a lot of trees to produce a profitable lot!

Sorting ripe from unripe fruit:

At the end of the day, the ripe and unripe cherries are separated and the unripe fruit is discarded. The ripe cherries are then bagged.

 

Pickup and weighing:

Sacks of ripe coffee cherries are left on the side of the road where they will be picked up and taken to the weighing station. Coffee pickers are paid based on the amount of coffee they pick each day.

Delivery to the beneficio:

The coffee fruit is transported to the beneficio in large brightly painted trucks. In Guatemala, buses and trucks are painted with bright and distinct colors, making each unique and with its own "personality". Several workers assist in the loading and unloading of the truck.

 

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