President Colom has declared Guatemala in a state of “national calamity”  after an earthquake, an errupting volcano, the capital being covered in raining black sand and a tropical depression hitting the northwest coast.

After more phone calls and emails than usual and over 1000 views just this morning to a blog I’ve only posted on once this year… I thought I should give an update with a quick summary of some links.

In ENGLISH:

The Guatemala Times is not the best place for news, but does pick up big events and offers dramatic perspective

I am adding this link in later in the day as this report is both in English and more updated that much of the content I put up this morning.  This is currently on the home page for THE GUATEMALA TIMES website

Fox News covers TROPICAL STORM AGATHA.  I was disappointed that most of the comments on this were wether or not the photo was fake.

In SPANISH from PRENSA LIBRE:

Every few hours these numbers seem to go up, but it’s currently over 115,000 who have been evacuated or are stranded due to over 100 landslides, 18 major bridges destroyed and over 100 bridges including minor bridges on dirt roads and footpaths that hinder daily life and commerce. 152 have died 90 missing.

22,000 homes damaged or destroyed

Largest highways in the country shut down

Another sinkhole.  100 ft deep in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood.  This is in addition to the one I posted 3  years ago here

Food shortage in northwest region in and around Huehue due to damage from heavy waters

If you get on you tube and search “lluvia de arena guatemala” or “lluvia de cenisa guatemala” you’ll find lots of raw live footage from last Thursday night May 27, 2010 where it rained black sand.  Click on this link to see a clip I came across where someone simply walked around a neighborhood the next morning.

How are we at FVH?  Well many roads are damaged and this will make transport challenging.  We are fine.  As a people the community is doing well.  I am in touch with Eliceo who is in charge at the finca.  And aside from not seeing the sun for 2 weeks straight all is o.k.  I look forward to sharing more Eliceo soon.  I just returned from Guatemala back to Bellingham 2 weeks ago and might have returned Friday morning to catch the final day of the Cup of Excellence and catch up with some producers however the airport has been shut down for four and a half days.  The airport only has about 3000 people going through it a day so today as it will likely open there will be over 12,000 people waiting to fly in or out of an already over crowded tiny airport.

We have coffee at Cofeco in Huehuetenango and at SUBE in Guatemala city with shipments ready to go, but we’re holding back at the moment until things clear up and we feel comfortable with the associated risks.  Most of my family lives in Guatemala city which is in some ways continues business as usual but for many life is in a state of chaos.  Guatemala is not a country where the physical needs of most are well met.  These additional hardships don’t make things any easier.  Much of the entrepreneurial spirit and optimism that emerges out of Guatemala comes out of necessity.  If you’ve read this far and you’re wondering how you can help.  You can visit, sometime when the airport is not shut down, and drink good coffee.  Tourism and coffee are the #1 and #2 sources of revenue for Guatemala.

La Cosecha!!!

January 26, 2009

Officially the first day of harvest at FVH!!!

60 canastos given out.  A canasto is a basket for collecting coffee.

40 cartones issued:  A carton is literally a piece of custom printed carton that we use for tracking volume of red cherry picked.  Each person that holds a carton is on payroll and they may request additional baskets if they have help.  Help is usually immediate family that would rather tag along and be together than be apart both for the day as well as the harvest season.  What exactly does this look like?  Well this year it means half the people on payrol have a brother, cousin or possibly wife that is helping them.  If it is their wife, their kids often are tagging along sometimes being helpful, but mostly being together with family and goofing around among the coffee trees.

 

We are very fortunate that Lencho and his brother Juan are both with us this harvest to assist Diego.  They are very committed to supporting their extended family in the absence of Carlos and Edwin Garcia Martin.  They have also expressed continued commitment in ensuring FVH continues strong and they happen to have the financial need.  The icing on the cake for everyone is that they both enjoy what they do and they are VERY good at it.

Lencho and Diego went to La Messilla this weekend to buy a new corn mill that will assist Diego in supporting both his wife along with his mother and siblings for many years to come.

Thanks to all of you who have been supporting Juana and her family.  We have been diligent to ensure that a little bit goes a long way.  We are carefully considering how to best help them as needs arise.  We do have a small amount of money set aside remaining for this.  If you wish to support them financially you can make a donation through paypal on the top right of this blog, or email if you wish to donate some other form of gift.

If you’re in the Seattle area the interview I did on Wed will air today at 2:00 p.m.  If you’re not in Seattle or your catching this after the fact it will be a downloadable podcast at their site:

http://www.kuow.org

or go directly here

Harvest is a season and everyone seems to have a different point of view about exactly when this begins as the cycle of growing coffee is exactly that… a cycle.

Although we did start some picking in early January, this year the first day of harvest for us is January 21.

PEPENA is the word in spanish we use for the pre picking which we do to capture early ripes. This also prepares the tree for a more uniform harvesting and allows maximum nutrient to be available to the fruit that is prepared for export.

It is costly to have a separate PRE harvest picking wave, but the cup quality proves this to be well worth it. Traditionally it is common practice to catch the over ripes during the first wave of picking and for quality’s sake sort them out somehow at some point. However the fruit that is reaching “IT’S POINT” ends up competing for nutrient with the fermenting dying coffee that is ahead of the game and now dying on the tree.

We’ve tried to send out a “STATE OF THE HARVEST” newsletter each year to our customers in the past. Instead I’ve thought more about creating a TOP 10 list of reasons why NOT to write it. Of course it would include the fact that we have few customers, no one reads it and if I’m not procrastinating and I get around to writing – my writing gets wordy. The truth is it is hard to write a years happenings concisely and you should just come down and see for yourself. To answer the most common question “How’s the harvest looking?”. It’s looking great. Quantity will be less this year and much less for many of our neighbors. Not so much because of one time weather related events.. rather a cycle of having relatively strong production the last couple years. This is a year that the mountains are taking a breather.(small tip for those working of the C) I will try to post more “happenings at FVH” in the coming weeks.

On that note- a few weeks ago we (Guatemala) lost aproximately 150,000 bags or 20 Million dollars worth of coffee due to high wind. Click here for more info (in Spanish). It was previously expected that the 08 crop would exceed the 07 crop in quantity. No longer the case.

Yes we love it when friends connect. Noe Castro (on the left) will be working up with the folks at Barefoot all of February and I understand possibly at Ritual or LaMill in March. Some day I’d like to open a coffee bar run exclusively by foreign visiting baristas. I hope in a few years that this idea won’t sound so foreign.

Also a big congratulations to the 07-08 Guatemalan Barista Champion – Raúl Rodas, the sponsoring companies

and all of the 30 others who competed

If you’re a barista wondering… “How can I get hooked up like that?” A resource that I think could be useful in such a venture is BARISTAEXCHANGE. You may very well be one of the first to have joined this myspacey type forum. But have you considered that with enough passion, creativity and effort you can probably travel the world or host a barista from any one of dozens of countries.

If you’re excited about the idea but are at a loss for where to start.. if you have any interest in Guatemala you might give Mike in Panajachel a call.

Or if you’re fluent in spanish contact me and I may be able to help you find a good match.