Working on a coffee farm in Colombia – Part 2


Each day the farmer and his wife offer us fresh and delicious fresh food from the local area and from their farm. The coffee plants are growing in the shade of banana and fruit trees so each day we harvest either fresh lemons, mandarins or guava to make juice.
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And there are vines here covered with a strange green vegetable that looks like a squash. They call them flying potatoes and we take one to peel and shred and add to a salad for lunch one day.
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I go out to the terraced garden beds and harvest some of the leaves of a few different types of lettuces for a salad for lunch on most of our days at the farm. Besides working in the coffee fields we work in the garden pulling weeds and mulching. We also spend a couple of afternoons clearing dead banana leaves from trees in another orchard to shred by hand to make dry matter for a new experiment they want to try with composting.

There are chickens in a small coop that are owned and cared for by a couple who live here and operate the dairy part of the farm that is still owned by the father of the family. I do all the dishes and kitchen cleanup for the 5 of us while Brian and I are at the farm and all the scraps go out to the chickens each day.
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The dairy couple has a little girl who has a pet chicken who sleeps with her. And one night while they are gone to church the young hen wanders around looking for a substitute friend.
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She’s very sweet, and Brian nicknames her Chook Norris.
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Back to the coffee fields we go each day and harvest more beans to add to those already in the pipeline.
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It’s not super hard work but it certainly has its challenges – its dusty, there are bugs everywhere, you have to watch for spiders and snakes, the trees are planted on steep slopes (some as much as 45 degrees) and you have to stoop and squat to get to the beans. My allergies let me know what they think of this whole thing within a day of our arrival. But all in all, its really interesting. One day while working I stumble across what I think is an ant hill but then later, after getting stung, realize it’s a fallen wasp nest. The wasps here are really tiny and look more like big black ants than wasps to me.
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Banana and plantain trees get harvested too especially when those trees are damaged or fall over, which they often do.
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When the dried beans are ready, we work to process them and make them into coffee. First the beans are run through a loosely-set grinder to help remove the dried skin or thin shell that is around them.
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Then they are poured from one bucket to another in front of a fan which helps to separate the thin shells from the beans.
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When they are clean, the beans are put in a cast iron pot over a fire and are dry-roasted by hand until they reach the desired level of roasting.
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Brian and I take turns stirring them constantly for roughly one and a half hours per 5 pounds of beans. It’s a very smoky job.
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And when they are done, the beans are layed out on a coffee bag to cool.
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Then they are ready to sell whole or to run through the grinder again and sell as ground coffee, which is what they do here.

Brian and I started our days at 7:30 am and didn’t return to our small room until 9:30 each night. It’s not that we were working in the fields all that time, as we only worked in the fields/gardens about 5-6 hours each day. But we also worked in the kitchen and around their home and I held their son in order to give them a few minutes to get things done. All in all I averaged 9 hours per day of working or helping.

It’s been an incredible experience to see the entire process. This couple has been wonderfully kind and open with us about their cultures, food, and beliefs and I have appreciated all that I have learned. And I hope in some way I have helped them in this few days. It’s obvious the baby has left the mom feeling overwhelmed and I’ve tried to help as much as I could. I wish the family all the best in this wonderful new life they have made for themselves.

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1 comment

  1. What an amazing journey! It’s great that you get an in depth appreciation of the local culture and are not just riding through!

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