In September I paid a short visit to Finca Cocondo in Antioquia, Colombia near Titiribi. It is southwest of the city of Medellin along the river Cauca at around 1700 Mts above sea level. On the farm you can see across the valley to the river below.
This is a coffee farm created 20 years ago under permaculture principles and clearly has been a real labour of love. The farm is beautifully kept, the processing stations are very clean and this in turn is reflected in the quality of the coffee. There are around 50,000 coffee trees ( this is a good sized farm for the region ) which are subdivided into lots.These allow Don Luis Emilio Velez, the owner, to experiment with different combinations of coffee varieties, growing and processing techniques - which result in different flavours once the coffee is roasted. Everything is carefully logged so that if a particular coffee sells well Luis may repeat the process for the next season.
This is a honey process coffee which looks a bit red in colour - drying on a Cama Africana (drying beds designed in Africa)
This is a natural process coffee being dried on a similar bed. You can see that the fruit is still on the coffee.
The farm can be seen as an ecosystem with four layers of vegetation. The top protective canopy is provided by the large trees such as the eucalyptus seen below. These provide the Arabica coffee trees with shade and protection from large inundations of rain. Smaller trees including avocado, banana and cherry make up the second layer. The third layer is the coffee plants themselves which are grown to around 2 meters and then pruned to keep them pickable ! The fourth layer comprises of smaller plants which help with soil erosion - the terrain here is very steep.
You can see the layers of vegetation that make up the farm ecosystem.
How might we say this farm is sustainable ? I can’t speak of the social aspects of the farm, however, from an environmental aspect the farm excels. Luis Emilio really tries to minimize his impact on the landscape. The two largest environmental impacts a coffee farm can have are the use of industrially produced fertilizers and the run-off from coffee cherry washing ( which pollutes waterways ). On this farm the run-off is captured in tanks and fed back to the coffee plants. Fertilizer is sourced from natural resources including cascara ( coffee fruit skin), food waste using the bokashi system and horse/cow dung. He experiments with different insects that can help him minimise plant damage from diseases such as broca - minimizing the use of organic pesticides. The buildings are fitted with drains and tanks which collect rainwater for watering the plants if needs be.
This was a special visit for me and am grateful to Luis Emilio and Fabiola for hosting me. It was great to see permaculture principles in action on a coffee farm of this size and in full production. I plan to return next year for a longer period to learn more. For anyone interested in visiting you can contact them via facebook. I took a bus from Medellin South bus terminal to Titiribi ( Tratam Bus Company - a single is 10,000 COP ~ 2 ½ hours). I then got a mototaxi ( on the back of a motorbike ) from Titiribi ( 15,000 COP ~ 30 mins ) to the farm ( ask to go to the meseta - Finca Cocondo ) Its well worth a visit
The plaza in Titiribi
HKCCEA was registered in accordance with the provisions of section 5A91 of the Societies Ordinance on 2010-04-16