Nicaragua Day 4

Our final day in Nicaragua started off brutally early.  It was not all that early, but everyone’s digestive systems were pretty brutally tattered after 4 days of rice and beans 3 meals a day.  Well, I shouldn’t say everyone, because Paul and Jay were rearing to go—Paul’s handy trick of taking shots of rum to kill anything funky in his system had them covered!

We set off with Warren to a meeting with the farmers of the Las Mercedes region of Aldea Global’s co-op.  The farm was very close to Jinotega, but involved some real rough off-roading from Paul.  Luckily we had 4-wheel drive!  A little shaken up, we arrived at the Finca San Francisco and toured around waiting for the meeting with 5 local farmers to start. Paul has visited this farm many times in the past, and has seen at least 2 babies grow up.  The youngest of 10 children is now almost 2 years old, walking and talking! 

Unfortunately, I lost my notebook that I keep everyone’s names and farm information in, so this is all going to have to be by memory.  The farm owner toured us around his wet mill and processing tanks, which are all new and made of concrete.  Paul showed us his skills at washing coffee and separating “floaters” (unripe beans) from the better coffee.  The farm owner picked Cara and I a flower, which was sweet, until I put it behind my ear and got attacked by all of the small bugs living in it!

As we were observing his operation, the other farmers arrived for the meeting and we all stood outside introducing ourselves, and talking about our goals for the coming years (shockingly, everyone introduced themselves perfectly, probably so as to not embarrass themselves like the day before).  Paul and I went into this meeting hoping to be able to purchase Direct Trade coffee right then.  Throughout the discussion, we got the farmers opinion on how they felt about our Direct Trade pricing model, which pays an above market price and bonuses for coffees that cup higher.  The farmers were interested in this idea, and we discussed some of the finer points as well as to how it would work.  Luckily, Aldea Global keeps immaculate records of all of their farmers and the coffee that they bring in, which will allow us to work with individual farmers without bypassing the co-op.

The most interesting part of the discussion with the farmers was regarding what they would like to use their extra income on.  Every single farmer said that he would like to invest money into his farm, by doing things like planting new trees, improving processing methods, tiling fermentation tanks, and hiring more labor to make more passes of the trees during picking season.  Paul was very impressed with the farmer’s dedication to improving coffee quality, and believes that this group of farmers will be perfect for the Beta test of our Direct Trade pricing model.  We left the meeting having agreed to buy all of the coffee that the farmers had left to pick this season, and made arrangements for me to return to Nicaragua in March to plan for next year’s crop.  The discussion was probably one of the most informative and conclusive that we have had with farmers, and it was great to walk away having committed to buying all of those 5 farmers crops. 

We hit the road again after lunchtime to head back to Jinotega, grab our luggage, and then embarked on the long ride back to Managua.  I was banished to the back jump-seat because of my severe carpolepsy, and even though I was squished in back there, I had no trouble laying my head down and waking up in Managua.  The rest of the day we spent relaxing at the side of the pool, catching up on emails (it is disturbing how much of an internet fiend one can become after being out of touch for a couple of days), and catching up on some much-needed sleep. 

I wish that I could write more, but the loss of my notebook is a hard blow to my memory of details.  I hope that someone in our group picked it up (anyone?).  Our last night was spent blowing the last of our cordobas in the hotel casino, and playing some last rounds of the dice game called “left, right, center” or something similar to that. 

And so ended the Nicaraguan adventure!  Next stop: El Salvador! Stay tuned.

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