Farm: La Argentina
Processing: 24 hours fermentation & dried on parabolic beds
Altitude: 1,990 meters above sea level
Owner: Familia Gomez
Town / City: Tabor
Finca Argentina Familia Gomez - Colombia
When her husband passed away over a decade ago, Isuara Martinez wasn’t quite sure what she was going to do about maintaining the family’s 6 hectare coffee farm, located in the prime coffee-growing land in the sub-municipality of Tabor in Timaná, Huila. She, herself, was already in her 50s and wasn’t up to all the work required to continue farming high quality coffee. In a development unusual in rural Colombia today, where small farms are increasingly subdivided into ever smaller parcels as they are passed onto the children of a farm’s owner, Doña Isuara’s children decided to help manage their family’s collectively.
Some 10 years on, Familia Gomez is a nice example of how coffee growing can be passed on through generations in rural Colombia. Currently, four brothers and sisters and their families (last name Gomez, after their father) manage the farm, and Doña Isuara manages her own small plot, despite her current age of over 65 years old. Alvaro, Juan, Gloria and Fabiola now live in different houses on the property, each taking care of different plots but wet processing their days’ pickings together in the farm´s old and original wet mill.
La Familia Gomez work with their local growers’ cooperative, ASORCAFE, to improve quality annually. Their involvement with the cooperative has helped them to improve the quality of their production and helped them reach new markets for their coffee.
ASORCAFE represents, in total, some 450 producers from across the Department. This specific lot, however, has been selected only from Doña Isuara’s family’s production. Every single producer delivering to the group has their lot cupped by the Association’s cupping lab in Pedregal. Lots scoring 85 points or more are reserved for the Inzá, Cauca microlot offered by Mercanta. However, encouraged by our partners in Colombia, Santa Barbara Estates, the group has also begun to reserve those lots that cup even higher than 85 points or that demonstrate exceptional or unique qualities. These stringent standards result in identifying very small, very special microlots, such as this one, being made available for export.
The association of coffee growers, ASORCAFE, was founded in 2004 by 10 coffee growers with an entrepreneurial spirit who were tired of private parchment buyers who were paying them below national prices. The region’s violent past, with a heavy presence of FARC guerrillas, had historically prevented the FNC (Colombia’s excellent national coffee board) and specialty-focused exporters from establishing a presence in the region. As violence has diminished, it has enabled the growers in the region to seek increased access to markets for quality, not only taking advantage of the region’s wonderful coffee-growing conditions but also the economic resource that nearby tourist destinations bring (for instance, the World Heritage Site “Parque Nacional Arqueológico de Tierradentro”). In the future, Mercanta fully expects increasingly great things in coffee from the area.
The challenge is for the future generations. If the family plans to split up the farm further, the plots will be too small for a family to survive on. This is being seen across Colombia: the average size of farms has diminished constantly over the last few decades, while the average age of coffee growers keeps edging upwards (currently it is in the mid-50s). Demographics are making the future of traditional Colombian coffee-growing hard and will be a challenge the country and coffee players around the world will have to face. Familia Gomez shows that there might just be another way forward.