Monday, October 29, 2007

Two plus years in a developing country gives one ample time to ponder life. I should have listened to that voice in my head saying ‘work more with coffee’, but my Peace Corps projects were more directed towards avocados than coffee. Avocados are sexy and voluptuous, but coffee is beautiful and svelte. Coffee – a squatty skinny treeish plant hiding under tall leguminous trees with white bark - was an unlikely career calling for me.

I left the Dominican Republic in ’05 and entered the NGO non-profit world for a year. Then I decided to listen to that voice and enter the world of coffee via a production job at Batdorf & Bronson in Atlanta. Batdorf & Bronson has taught me to cup, describe coffee, sell and brew coffee, and right now I’m just waiting to pass my barista test.

Six months into that job a dream was answered: own a tree farm, coffee actually. Olivo, one of the most respected coffee farmers in the DR and one of the best tree grafters, had a 14 acre farm for sale in Los Frios and wanted me to buy it. In July, I went to the DR for two weeks to buy the coffee and avocado farm.

Now I’m in the Dominican Republic to process my coffee and eventually see what it tastes like.

Today is Oct. 28 and I’m here for the harvest. La Tormenta Tropical (storm) Noel has put my work on hold for the next few days. Last night I agreed to buy five quintals (500lb) from a neighbor with the intention of processing it naturally (picked and dried with out milling or washing). I’ve been in the country for one week and have 3 weeks left to: process my coffee three different ways, build 4 African drying beds, build a worm compost bin, and find time to go surfing! Yes, I’m an ambitious American. Some times I have to remind myself I’m on Dominican time or island time which is a much slower pace.

It rained all night and yet to show signs of stopping. Now the wind has picked up: wind + rain = sideways rain. None of the doors or windows close like they did yesterday (wood expands when wet). And everything, no really, everything is wet. It has been like sitting under a very large humidifier all night. Now that I’m a farmer, not a community development person, this rain means less money. Coffee falls off the tree before it is ripe and the coffee cherries burst because of the rain. The workers take longer to pick the coffee because they have to pick the coffee from the ground and the trees. I should learn patients from this. For the next 3 days, according to the weather report, it will rain. I will learn from my neighbors who also have coffee to pick. We wait and be patient. We will discuss food, weather, crops, politics, women (why I’m still single), and fighting cocks. A few minutes ago I showed just how rusty my Spanish is as I described a glacier as puro helado (pure ice cream)!

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