The best way to get my attention in Nicaragua is to tell me you know a coffee farmer. So, it was no surprise that, when my translator Hector says, ¨So, I know this coffee farmer named Roberto," my ears immediately perked up. Of course, in classic Hector style, he had never actually met Roberto, but he did at least know where to find him. And, before I knew it, my wife and I were standing next to the coffee roaster that Roberto recently built himself and making plans to visit his farm outside of Somoto.
Roberto is the third generation to work his family´s coffee farm, and his desire is to make the kind of changes necessary for them to, in his words, "receive a better price for their coffee." Up until now, the family has always sold their coffee to the local Beneficio, taking what price they could get. But he hungers for the type of direct relationships with roasters and importers that makes earning a better living and producing better coffee possible.
As we rode to and from the farm (with three men who are visiting from Spain) we had a good amount of time to talk - that is, in between dodging tree branches as we stood in the back of their 4x4 truck.
As an American roaster, who stands at the end of the supply chain, it was good for me to hear his heart and the types of decisions he struggles with. I am so grateful that God has given me the opportunity to meet men like Roberto and begin understanding how I can be a part of helping them.
While on the farm we got to see the processing "beneficio" that his grandfather built, do some walking through the coffee, and even stumble upon a rather large fresh water crab. The scenery was profoundly beautiful. Mountains, lush green vegetation everywhere, a volcano off in the distance... In moments like these I can do nothing but rejoice in how good and kind God has been to me. There are many American roasters who never get these kinds of opportunities and this is my fourth in three years. But I digress.
Roberto showed us some of the coffee rust problem that he does not have the finances to treat. The rust is a disease that robs the coffee cherries of nutrients, which results in the shrub producing less than it would when healthy - less coffee, less income. It appears as a yellowing of the underside of the leaves.
Roberto says there are some organic ways to treat the rust that will bring the shrub back to a healthy state in about two months. He says it would cost him about $1000 per manzana (2.5 acres and approx. 3,000 coffee shrubs). The total size of his farm is over 100 manzanas, so you can see how expensive solving that problem gets.
Today we have invited Roberto to join us as we travel to visit our friend Luis Balladarez, who owns a farm and Beneficio Las Segovias. I am hopeful that he and Luis will form a relationship that will begin to help Roberto.
My mind will also be spinning as I spend time with two coffee farmers who are also my brothers in Christ. From the beginning of this God gave me a vision of finding and working with Christian coffee roasters. But I thought, "how will that happen?" Well, when the Infinite Almighty is involved, I should not be surprised at moments like these!