School Time at Origin

August 7, 2016

Sunrise in Urrao, Antioquia. Origin of some of our Colombian Coffee

A new school day begins and you wake up wondering, did I do my homework? That question is not an option for coffee growers, because if they don’t do their homework the result is not an F minus, but an H minus (H for harvest) which means a complete year lost with no income.

Once you are on your feet it’s time to prepare the backpack with all the useful items: books, workbooks, pencils, sporting goods, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and so on.
At the same time the coffee grower gathers his belongings: the machete, poncho, fiambre (food wrapped in a plantain leaf), hat and water sweetened with sugar cane.

You head out to wait for the school bus, dreaming about the day you will be responsible for your own transportation heading to college or work. Once you graduate, that bus is no longer there to take you to school; instead it will be transporting the coffee that you will be drinking during the long hours of study in college. In Nicaragua the old U.S. school buses are reused as transportation for the rural areas.

Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Intermunicipal bus station

We must be ready to take the bus and not miss opportunities because the village transport doesn’t go past that often.

Once you arrive at school you are responsible for what you learn and how much time you invest in it. For the coffee grower, study is a daily obligation: look up and read the clouds to know whether it will rain or not, what and when to plant, do the math for costs, check the daily price of coffee and more. He who does not study does not survive.

In the coffee sector from Nicaragua to Colombia the same language is spoken and the messages delivered are the same: collaboration within the community, ethical and transparent businesses, sustainable practices and environmental protection are key aspects that will lead to quality coffee produced by families with quality of life.

Salgar, Antioquia, Colombia. A field day on a coffee farm.

From California to New York you will learn that photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert the energy in light to produce their own food. What seems to be just another class is a concept that farmers control daily. Planting shade trees among crops, to control the amount of light that the trees need, will be vital in the coffee bean’s growth, which will determine the final quality in your cup.

In your science class you will learn Technology and the use of alternative energies. Being green, environmentally conscious and socially responsible is not a new concept only among “green people”; those are concepts applied daily in coffee. The wet coffee is dried using the most reliable and sustainable energy, the sun. Coffee growers control the temperature and humidity of their beans, wireless, without wifi or bluetooth, only by looking at the sky.

Your day will come to an end thinking about everything you did. At the end you know that the next morning a cup of coffee will be waiting to give you energy, vitality and meaning to your day, just as the day begins for all the coffee growers behind your coffee cup.

(Left) Food security class in Betulia, Antioquia, Colombia with a bike blender. (Right)Coffee drying beds in Jinotega, Nicaragua.
(Left) Food security class in Betulia, Antioquia, Colombia with a bike blender. (Right)Coffee drying beds in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

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