Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Farmer Profile: Don Isidro Baquis

When I think back to before the recent Farmer to Farmer Honduras trip, I remember a time when to me Don Isidro was little more than a set of initials painted in blue on a burlap coffee sack. I had met most of the other farmers on previous trips, but I could not put a face to the name of Isidro. His coffee came in with very high quality and I was eager to meet him. Now I have visited his place and can bring you along with me.

When we arrive in the community of El Tamarindo it is already mid-afternoon. It is raining (again) and folks are inclined to settle into our accommodations at Don Polo's house. They have offered us coffee and I can feel the long conversations beginning. There is a little time warp that can happen when we visit coffee farmers in Honduras, especially when Hector and Adalid are along (our Honduras trip guides who are also coffee farmers). No one seems to be in a hurry to do the next thing and conversations seem to go in deep arcing circles. This disregard for hurrying on to the next thing grates on my sensibilities, but I also can feel the palpable relief of not having to worry and hurry, and I appreciate that. Today I feel the time warp settling in and I shake my head: "Not Today!" there are places we NEED to go. We have come to El Tamarindo to interview Don Polo (where we are staying) and Don Isidro (who lives a 45 minute hike up the mountain from Polo's house). I do the math in my head: 3 pm now, 4 pm arrival at Isidro's, interview and photos for an hour, return to Polo's by 6 pm. I start to worry that it will be dark when we are walking back if we don't hurry up and start walking. My familiar sense of urgency comes in handy, occasionally!

So we walk up the road until we come to a deeply rutted steep footpath, which takes us further up and up. Don Polo is along and he keeps pointing way up to a ridge in front of us. Don Isidro lives over that ridge, he says. I am glad not to have a heavy backpack as we climb the trail. Soon the forest opens up to a scarred landscape of fallen pine trees. Polo explains that a person from outside the community has purchased that land and felled about 12 acres of pine forest to plant coffee. Yikes! Nearby we see a fresh landslide, the inevitable result of such deforestation. It isn't only outsiders who are cutting trees in El Tamarindo; with the coming of the Roya coffee fungus, most new plantations are being established without much shade in an attempt to increase airflow and slow fungal growth, and old plantations are being opened up to the sun by cutting shade trees. We climb past the landslide and keep climbing. It is still raining lightly when we make it to the ridge and then the hike levels out. Soon we are arriving at Don Isidro's house. 

Deforestation to plant shade-free coffee.

My first impression is that it looks like there is some new construction going on, which is usually a good sign. He is busy making some new coffee drying racks. There is shiny hardware cloth and fresh cut pine boards, all in process. We can see recent improvements in the coffee de-pulping set-up and a new fermentation tank. His house seems to have a recent addition, where the kitchen is. His house is the highest elevation residence of anyone we meet on this trip, at 1750 meters above sea level, and we feel like we are on a mountain-top. Isidro has some sad looking tomato and pepper plants on an elevated garden bed next to the coffee de-pulper. It is too cold at this elevation for these heat-loving plants to thrive. The misty breeze pushes us inside the warm house. We are soon invited for coffee and we do the interview. I hope I can sleep tonight after all this afternoon coffee. Having forgotten my notebook, I ask Alex to oblige by recording the interview on his ipod (details to come soon to this spot - come back to check).    

Don Isidro has both organic and conventional coffee, and the organic plot was almost totally destroyed by the Roya. He tells us that luckily his conventional coffee has some resistant varieties. He sent 450 pounds of organic coffee in 2013, but with the Roya damage he wonders if he can send any coffee at all this year. Isidro's coffee cupped well, like all of the COFEACOMA farmers. The coffee scored a 76 on the 100-point cupping scale, with the tasters comments: "bit thin, sweet, fruity, and straw." Thanks Don Isidro, for all your hard work.

Becky. We are almost there!

Isidro's water bottle

Corrin, enjoying her coffee

I love her smile!

Corn patch behind the house

The kitchen

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