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.

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Depulper in back of pick up going in for a tune up

Depulper in back of pick up going in for a tune up

 

We calculate that we may begin the “pepena” as early as December 15 or 22.  Pepena is what we call an initial picking where we prep the plant as much as possible for a uniform maturation.  Not only on each coffee plant but uniformity from one coffee plant to another so harvest can be done in multiple efficient waves.  The activity of pepena is simply picking what is ripe early.

This activity helps send maximum nutrient to developing ripe fruit as opposed to maintaining an already ripe fruit on the tree that may otherwise naturally begin it’s course of fermentation.  Think of a large family where the oldest kids are ready to be financially independent and move out on their own allowing some more breathing space for those still at home.  In coffee this space is important.

There is a fine line between over feeding and starving.  There is a time for feasting, and in order for a slow and complex development there is also a time and season for pacing yourself at a slow and steady rate to get through the dry season.

This dry season coupled with soil type and elevation directly correlate with acidity.  Having unexpected rain towards the end of a dry season can begin to mute the intensity of the acidity.  As a result a more sporadic harvest doesn’t have to be, but often leads to more under and over ripes being harvested.  Then depending on the following steps of processing this will have a significant and negative impact either on quality and or quantity of exportable coffee.  Some choose high QC standards and realize a smaller yield towards export and others attempt to retain their volume, but are capped on the premium they may get based on quality.

Newest patio is a 5 year project for us.

Newest patio is a 5 year project for us.

Often the biggest factor in this decision is market conditions.  Lets say the C is over 150, than for many it is all about quantity, if the C is below 100 then it quality becomes a stronger consideration for some.  The logic is why spend more money on labor on a product that may have a cost to produce that may be above what it is worth.  This is a VERY REAL and common predicament.   As you can see if you’re striving for the best quality possible as a producer you have tough decisions in any market.  Coffee is the one commodity that tends to confusing to economists.  It sometimes SEEMS so simple, but it isn’t.  When the price is high, everybody seems to be buying it and it’s quickly scarce, when the price is low, no one wants it.  Go figure.

A large farm will produce enough through their pepena that it is actually moved all the way through processing and it is exported.  So if you are a broker, this is what you’re getting when your supplier tells you this first shipment is from the “first picking”.  Of course it’s not the tastiest coffee!  This is something we don’t even bother wet milling other than we do like to have a test run on the depulpers before entering the formal harvest which will begin mid end January 2009.  That being said, every coffee has a home, and home should be a place where you are content and comfortable.  This does not look the same for everyone.  So be careful not to judge another’s “home”.

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.