Farm: Finca La Pradera
Varietal: 96% Caturra, 4% Maracaturra
Processing: Fully washed & Sundried
Altitude: 1,350 to 1,450 metres above sea level
Owner: David Ariel Lovo Gutierrez
Town / City: Dipilto
Region: Nueva Segovia
Finca La Pradera (El Golfo) - Nicaragua
Finca La Pradera is located in the community of Laguan in the Municipality of Dipilto, 22 km from Ocotal, Nueva Segovia Department, Nicaragua. Owned and managed by Sr. David Ariel Lovo Gutierrez, the farm occupies fertile hillsides high in mountains criss-crossed with springs of crystal-clear water. The farm covers around 43 hectares, 33 of which are planted with 100% shade-grown Caturra coffee. Sr. Lovo keeps the rest of his land as a nature preserve, helping to support and maintain the diverse flora and fauna that comprise this region’s unique ecosystem.
The farm boasts a spectacular view over the valley of Ocotal and is located on prime coffee growing land in a terrain that is often rugged and inhospitable. Although numerous coffee farms dot the mountains around Dipilto, the topography tends to be quite steep and difficult to cultivate. La Pradera, even at its highest point, presents a softer topography, with undulating hills and fertile pastureland. In fact, this is how the finca earned its name: La Pradera means ‘The Prairie’ in English. The particular plot where this lot, ‘El Golfo’ (The Gulf), was grown is an area of the farm resembling a small, roundish cove, which is sheltered and protected from the high winds that often sweep through these mountainsides. Located at 1,450 metres above sea level, the lot must be carefully pruned regularly to ensure optimal sun exposure at this high altitude.
David attributes much of the farm’s reputation for quality to location. The region is ideal for coffee cultivation, with perfect temperatures, regular rainfall, fertile soil, and temperate climatic conditions. Transportation from the farm to the dry mill is fast, taking about 40 min – made possible since the farm is only 22 km from the mill and the road is in a good condition. Above all, excellent agricultural practices - including selective harvesting and strict quality control in wet and dry milling – are really what make La Pradera’s coffee so excellent.
Davids’s father, Joaquin Augusto Lovo Lopez, began producing coffee in 1956 at the family’s first farm, Bella Aurora, currently managed by David’s brother, Luis. In 1972, Don Joaquin purchased La Pradera, which at the time had less than a hectare of coffee, which had been cultivated in a ‘traditional’ (that is to say, poorly managed) manner. This small plot was immediately renovated, and Don Joaquin expanded the plantation to 10 manzanas. Little by little the farm’s production grew – even throughout Nicaragua’s revolution of the 1970s. However, the 1980s and Nicaragua’s intensifying civil war presented new difficulties, and the family decided to leave the country for a decade, only returning to Nicaragua in 1991.
Upon the family’s return, Don Joaquin and his sons decided to return to coffee – as if there really were any other option for this family of passionate coffee farmers. The first step was to initiate a full renovation plan for their farms’ semi-abandoned coffee plantations. La Pradera’s area under production was expanded and much of it replanted. Today the farm produces some 1,100 quintales (46 kg) of high-quality Caturra coffee which has been recognised with numerous awards, including 3 wins at Nicaragua’s Cup of Excellence competition.
Much of this is due to David’s expertise gained through experience. He and his brother helped their father with all aspects of cultivation from an early age. As children, they would visit his family’s coffee farms with their father, travelling long distances along remote and poorly maintained roads, arriving at the entrance to the fincas only to have to finish the final miles by horse (....actually, according to Luis, Don Joaquin would ride while the boys would have to walk). Luis recounts, “I remember well how the harvest had to be carried down [to the mill] by mule. Each mule could carry two bags and four cans [of cherry] each - about two and a half quintals. I remember, as well, sinking in the mud and how the hooves marked the mules’ passing on the hills.”
Both Luis and David have clearly inherited their father’s passion for and commitment to coffee farming. With their father watching over (he’s 96 this year!), both sons take every effort to continuously improve quality in the cup. They’ve invested heavily in their farms’ infrastructure and have plans to improve the family’s wet mill in the near future. They are also committed to stewardship of the land and take the best care to ensure the vitality and health of their coffee plantations. Every year, the family plants a minimum of 15,000 new plants and cares for them using environmentally friendly and sustainable farming practices. The brothers are also increasingly experimenting with new varietals, and David has recently planted (2014) a small plot of Red Catuai at La Pradera, which we look forward to tasting in the future!