Friday, August 22, 2008

holding the line

i´m currently in the dominican repubilc for the coffee harvest. i knew i might arrive earlier than the ripe coffee, so it is a good thing i have other things to do.

coffee tends to produce a lot one year and a little the next. this is a big year. antonio, claire and i picked all the ripe cherries. it only took an few hours becasue there were only few and all of them had ´la broca´or bean borer. we boiled the cherries for a couple minutes (to kill the la broca) and then depulped them. that coffee will probably be roasted over fire wood and drunk here in los frios.

today i purchased a few tiny house-lots of land in town so that i can have a space to build some drying tunnels and an earthbag construction house. when i leave, the house will be used by the eco-tourism mountain guides to store gear, have meetings and host tourists. if claire decides to move here, she will also use it as a house and a center for a public health trainings.

claire is intersted in development work and has decieded to travel with me for the next 5 weeks. i really enjoy teaching or guiding people through this country. half the time i´m translating spaish for her the other have i´m translating culture. claire loves los frios and the farm. she has a great attitude and doesnt´mind the rough conditions. i have two more friends coming down in the next weeks. first is gray reilly, who wants to work in sustainable agriculture then max an old friend of mine since child hood.

if you heard about the storms they weren´t that bad. just lots of rain.

this trip has been great so far. it seems it will be a test of balance. most of my education has taught me to go organic, to make money, and business isn´t charity. yet everything else seems to be currrently against these theories: agro-chemicals save a ton of money and time, do they do that much damage? with current labor costs, even our bumper crop of black beans didn´t cover its own costs. should i keep investing myself into this? if these harvests (coffee included) can´t cover its own costs is this charity or sustainable agricutlure? i currently straddle the line.

i have no answers, just more questions.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Travel dates

(my wet-mill)
Aug. 15th - Oct. 9th I will be in the Dominican Republic.

As usual, I have a to-do list longer than my time in country, but with lots of luck and good weather I might get most of it done. Here is my list: process a few micro-lots of coffee three different ways (washed, pulp-natural, and natual), buy a small property lot (a place to build drying tunnel and build a earth bag house), build a drying tunnel, build a earth bag house, resolve "the chicken incident" - again, visit my exporter, find some quality green coffee samples from other co-ops, attend a wet-mill inauguration (I purchased the land for the co-op and they will repay me with coffee), introduce Gray and Claire to Los Frios as counter parts/project directors for Young Tree Community, eat my weight in rice and beans, go surfing, and of course catch up with all my friends in the DR!

I can't wait: to eat arroz con habicuelas verdes con pollo guisa'o cooked over firewood by Nerva (by far the best cook in the entire country!), to give Antonio a hug and talk to his wife and 9 kids, drink bad coffee with all my neighbors, to wake up every day with the sun - tie on my machete - and walk down the hill to my farm, to live in Spanish (think it, speak it, barter it, discuss it, teach it), catchup on the town gossip (who had kids, who left, who came back, who made money, who died), catchup on politics, and hear how all the prices have increased again. I can't wait to go to my other home again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

please visit. . .

Young Tree Community

You'd better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone because times they are a changin'

So yes. Much has changed in the last couple weeks: job, harvest schedule and harvest plans. Change is constants in our lives. Change is good. But lots of change at once doesn't always feel good.

I have accepted an offer with Counter Culture Coffee to be their Atlanta Sales Rep. I will be starting in mid October after the harvest. The phrase I use to describe my feeling about this new opportunity is, "stoked out of my mind". In the same breath, I can't help but say how awesome my prior employer was to me. Batdorf & Bronson taught me everything I know about roasted coffee: cupping, describing, selling, brewing, barista-ing, delivering, packaging, and more. They gave me space to grow as a coffee professional and let me be part of their team. I couldn't have asked for more. We are parting on good terms. The quality coffee industry is small, really small. So I look forward to seeing my old B&B co-workers, now friends, at trade shows and around town in Atlanta.

My harvest schedule has been moved forward by a month, so I have had to slim down a some of my plans. There will be no farm tour. I leave Aug. 15 and return Oct. 9.

Claire and Gray will be traveling with me for most of the trip. They are the Project Directors of Young Tree Community and will be working to design and start a few development projects in Los Frios. I'm really stoked to have them on board. They bring energy, passion and talent. We have a stellar team to make long term changes in Los Frios. I would work mostly with coffee and they would work with sustainable development projects to answer the Los Frios' expressed needs, kinda like dynamic-duo. We hope to build a drying tunnel, two earth-bag houses, all while processing about 1,500 lbs of quality coffee. We hope to get most of that done but time will tell.