Farm: Fazenda Soares
Varietal: Red Catuaí
Altitude: 1112 meters above sea level
Owner: Pedro Humberto Veloso
Town / City: Carmo do Paranaíbe
Region: Cerrado Mineiro
Overall: Honey, syrup, milk cocolate
Fazenda Soares - Brazil
When Pedro began acquiring new land for coffee farming in the 80s, by today’s standards, the small Fazenda Soares was one of his first. Taking its name from the stream that runs through the farm, Soares’ microclimate and special processing, enables it to produce some truly spectacular coffees.
Made up of 55 separate counties, the region of Cerrado Mineiro can be found to the east of Minas Gerais; one of the primary coffee-growing regions of Brazil. Famed for its quality coffee production, the region ranges from 1,000 to 1,250 metres above sea level, providing ideal conditions for coffee production due to the perfect balance of wet and dry seasons. Cerrado alone is estimated to produce as much as 12.5% of Brazil’s total coffee output and has now received ‘Origin status’, meaning only coffee from ‘Cerrado’ can be called ‘Cerrado’; similar to Champagne in France.
Pedro Humberto Veloso, the owner of Fazenda Soares, began his career in the 70s as a bean trader (not coffee beans, but pulses). Located in Sao Paulo, Pedro had a small warehouse where he could clean, pack and sell his beans. In 1975, the region of Parana was hit by such a bad frost, it was said to wipe out close to 50% of the year’s total harvest. As the industry in the region was devastated, many Japanese families who had migrated to Brazil were forced to move to Cerrado, to plant new plantations. This is where Pedro discovered his love for coffee farming.
Pedro began travelling and visiting the town of Santos, to become involved in the industry and to try to gain interest in his samples. On his second trip and after a week of negotiating, Pedro was able to achieve a good price for his coffee. This enabled Pedro to purchase the land for his first farm and begin building his empire. For many years, Pedro stuck to what he was good at, negotiating good prices on the domestic market, as well as expanding his milling facilities and warehousing operation to surrounding farms. It wasn’t until the mid-80s that Pedro began searching for new farm and in 1986, Pedro purchased Fazenda Soares. Being one of Pedro’s first purchases, today, Fazenda Soares is one of Pedro’s smallest farms in the Carmo do Paranaíba region. Although small, Fazenda Soares has its own microclimate, meaning great coffee can be produced in small quantities.
The team at Veloso are skilled producers, constantly looking for ways to improve their processes. Be it new technologies to improve irrigation, new machines, better warehouse service, or by maximising the use of ‘green’ products at the farms, there is always room for improvement. For the next few years, the Veloso team are looking to improve their wet mill, switching to a new design to offer better results. In the future, plans to build reservoirs to fight climate change are likely to be enacted across their farms; allowing them to continue to produce coffee sustainably.
The team at Fazenda Soares Cecilia have also implemented rigorous techniques to improve the cultivation of their coffee trees. One of the biggest challenges for Pedro when he first acquired Fazenda Soares was a disease found in the root of the plants called nematode. The disease means that the tree suffers from a lack of root development, causing an inability to absorb all the necessary nutrients. To reduce this infestation, the team at Fazenda Soares started to plant varieties resistant to this disease but also instigated a new method of soil fertilisation called fertigation. For each plot, the soil is analysed to calculate the number of macro and micronutrients needed. With this recommendation, a method of fertigation by mechanised application is used, injecting the soil below the coffee trees skirt with the ideal balance of fertilisers. Fertigation is prioritised for new trees, offering the saplings small weak doses, forcing new trees to improve their absorption of nutrients in the future; hence fighting the nematode disease.
For pruning, the method found to produce the greatest economic return is noted as topping/cleavage. The pruning consists of removing a small piece from the plagiotropic branch and another part from the orthotropic branch (stem). This is normally conducted every 8th harvest for the best result. It is only after 4 more harvests that the trees are replaced to increase productivity. This 12-year cycle is being reduced every year. From 2023, Fazenda Soares hopes to change their trees every 9 years; further improving productivity.
Each lot at the farm is designated with a specific variety, area and age. When a new plot is planted, another area will be planted with a specific variety at the same time. This allows Fazenda Soares to plan their varieties crop cycles, offering homogeneous and high-quality harvests. For varieties, the Veloso farms have a range of experimental fields. Here, they test new varieties such as IPR100, Catucaí and Ibc12, in the hope to improve resistance to pests and diseases. Each variety has an individual cultivation method, depending on; variety, age, expected output, vulnerability to certain diseases, as well as the microclimate and soil that said plot is planted on.
For the 2019 harvest, Mercanta has purchased the Red Catuai variety, chosen for its great cup score at the Mercanta lab.
As well as attention to detail regarding variety and cultivation, processing is another key strength for Veloso. Constant testing is conducted, experimenting with different processing for each variety. Veloso's main aim is to produce unique coffees, by applying unique fermentation and dry processes. Before harvesting, Veloso map out all of their plots and the output from of the harvest, directing their decision for which process to use for each plot.
This lot in particular from Soares experiences some very unusual processing methods. Similar to the ‘wine process’ in Costa Rica, once the coffee has been harvested, cherry is sorted and separated into; ripe, under-ripe and overripe. Whilst the ripe and under-ripe cherries are sent to the wet mill, the overripe or ‘passa,’ is sent to the patio for drying. Here, passa cherry is laid out in 20cm layers. This is to decrease the presence of oxygen and maintain the temperature at 42.C for fermentation. After 48 hours, the fermentation is finished and the cherry is spread out at a ratio of approximately 20 litres per m². Here, cherry is rotated 12 times a day for 16 days, until the correct moisture content is met. Finally, the parchment coffee is transported some 3.5km away to the dry mill at Fazenda Santa Cecilia, Pedro’s largest farm, to be prepared ready for export.
When Pedro purchased Fazenda Soares, only 3.5% of the property had been reserved, using the rest to make way for farming production. Because of this Pedro, purchased 15% more of his total hectares across all his farms in a separate location. This land is a preserved Cerrado forest that Pedro uses to encourage his Semear project.
The Semear (to seed) Project began in June 2012, intending to raise awareness among children from schools in Carmo do Paranaíba regarding issues relating to environmental education. The Semear Project emphasises the importance of protecting nature reserves against mass deforestation; regularly occurring today in modern Brazil. From 2018 to 2020, more than 124,000 seedlings were planted to help encourage reforestation. This means that the relative proportion of the preserved areas covering Veloso Coffee farms is now 20% higher than required by Brazilian legislation (38% total). Pedro hopes that in the coming year the Semear project will continue to grow, adding valuable stability to their microclimates, as well as encouraging the growth of natural fauna and habitats for wildlife.
Another challenge facing Veloso is the scarcity of qualified workers, even as the use of machinery increases in coffee farming in Brazil. For this reason, the supply of qualified manpower represents a major challenge for coffee production in Brazil. To encourage employment on their coffee farms, Veloso has started several initiatives to increase available labour. Although salaries are based on a local job standard, controlled by labour unions, Veloso offers education initiatives to long-term workers with high levels of performance. As well as education, Veloso aim to offer a good work environment, access to good nutrition and leisure space within their farms. This has been spearheaded by their new program, a vegetable garden located at their largest farm, Santa Cecilia Farm. Here, the team produce a wide array of fruits and vegetables to share between their employees.