Farm: Buena Vista
Processing: 24 hours fermentation & dried on parabolic beds
Altitude: 2,010 meters above sea level
Owner: Diva Ultengo
Town / City: Tabor
Region: Inza, Cauca
Finca Buena Vista (Diva Ultengo) - Colombia
For many years, Diva Ultengo ran her small farm only with the help of her husband, Gerardo Quipo, and their four children. With the children all grown up and beginning to start their own families, Diva and Gerardo were faced with a dilemma: how could they help their children without breaking up the farm into tiny plots that would too small to successfully support a family. They wanted their children to stay close and continue the family legacy, but if a livelihood couldn’t be eked from the land, their children would leave for the city. The solution that Diva devised was to divide her farm, Buena Vista, between her children (keeping a part for herself and her elderly mother, of course) but to continue to work the land collaboratively and sharing processing and drying infrastructure.
Not only has this solution to a problem common throughout rural Colombia worked a treat (the family all gets along and enjoy spending time together), it has resulted in far better consistency in coffee quality than would have occurred had the farm been entirely split up. This has given the family – working as a small ‘growers’ collective’ within their larger producer organisation – the opportunity to offer larger lots but of reliably high quality. Furthermore, instead of spending funds on maintaining 4 sets of infrastructure, the family saves money by sharing operating costs.
Each of Diva’s children manages their own plots according to their farming beliefs, but the family has agreed to always collaborate on varieties that they plant. Currently, the family only farms 100% Caturra coffee, which is possible due to the very high altitude of the farm (in some places, over 2,000 meters above sea level).
The coffee trees are regularly fertilized depending on the state and quantity of coffee on the tree, and seeds for new trees are collected and germinated on the farm itself. During the harvest, the family helps one another with picking, and although sometimes external labour is needed, the family can share costs.
We found out about this coffee through our good friends at the Santa Barbara Estate, who serve it in their flagship specialty café, Pergamino, in Medellin. Specifically in Cauca, they have launched a new pilot project with the Pillimue family in San Antonio. In order to offer upmarket access more widely in the region and to put more control in the hands of local people, the family (who has long supplied coffee to Pergamino from their various family member farms) has opened a small warehouse and cupping lab with funding from Pergamino. They act as logistics and sourcing partners and are able to provide quality assessment services for nearly 150 families in the area, which is far more impactful than any other regional association in the area, reaching not just San Antonio, but now also the towns of Belen, La Palmera, Aguablanca, Pedregal, Palmichal, San Jose and Santa Teresa. Most importantly, the Pillimue/Pergamino partnership enables more families than ever before to access higher prices by placing coffee on the specialty market.
During the harvest season, Pergamino has committed to monthly visits to the group in order to cup and advise on quality. All coffee produced by the group that cups at 85+ points will be purchased, and higher scoring lots may be held aside as micro lots to be marketed under the farmer/family’s own name.