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 Ultango 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 a 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 manage 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.
Diva and her children 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 Diva’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.