Friday, January 27, 2017

Visiting the Coffee Farmers

We are now in the mountains of Huehuetenango where our organic coffee is grown by women farmers. We are 12 kilometers from the Mexican border. There are 30 women in the Women's group and most are Mam Maya. They are a group within the cooperative - Association UPC. We began with meeting with four of the women growers- Orfa, Fabiana, Sonia and Maria Luz. We also met with Jacinto the head of UPC and Rolando head of operations. I'd met some of these women over the visits in last 5 years but it was nice to have more time just talking.  Though we have 3 spanish speakers in our group of travelers we got much more clear information with Matt translating.
The women are proud of their coffee and especially happy to get the higher price for their organic coffee. The talked about the importance of protecting the environment and the health of their families by growing organically. There are challenges and it's more work to grow organically but the higher price they are paid makes it worth all the effort.
Orfa, Sonia, Brenda, Fabiana and her daughter.

Matt and Jacinto.
Jacinto spoke about the work of Asociación Unión de Pequeños Caficultores (UPC) besides working with growing the best coffee and finding markets,  they are innovators of better methods to grow and process coffee. They are organized to better their lives, raise the standard of living and focus on their members health, helping kids go to school by seeking scholarships and education for all members on a variety of subjects.
With the bags of coffee: Brenda, Jody, Jacinto, Orfa,Fabiana, Sonia, Sue, Donna, Maria Luz

We then hopped into the back of a pickup for the steep winding trip up the mountains.
Maria Luz with baby showing us her coffee.
Orfa raking her coffee. The coffee dries on a cement patio for 4-5 days. The raking is done each hour helping for even drying.

Orfa has three children. 19 yrs Froidis is working on a 6 month visa in Alaska, 17 year old daughter Deris and 14 yr old Darvin. Her husband also works in the states from December - June on this 6 month visa program. He's been doing this for 16 years. You can tell she has been running this farm herself. She is definitely a leader in the Women's group. Through the organizing of the Womens group they have access to trainings and grants. She is one of the women with goats from Heifer International used for meat and milk. She also has a room on her house which has a bread making business where the women bake once a week to sell and also for their families.
Deris, Orfa and Sue. 
Sue is in charge of F2F coffee business so it's especially great to have her here meeting these women and seeing their farms and lives.
Hiking in the coffee fields, Brenda, Bob, Donna, Sue.

It's so beautiful in these mountains. It's easy to forget how hard life is for these families. It is clear they are hard working, motivated and active in taking advantage of every opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.

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