Farmer's Stories | Argenis Rosas - Why Organic Coffee is a Leap of Faith
Argenis Rosas inherited coffee from her parents. She worked on the family farm as a child, and she grew up learning how to take care of the coffee plants that sustained her family. Now she shares her home and farm, Bellavista, with her partner and two children. Coffee continues to be their livelihood, their life.
Her kind eyes sparkle as she talks about organic coffee. She believes growing organic coffee is the right thing to do. In fact, she has very personal reasons for believing that.
She didn’t always grow organic coffee. Like other farmers in her area, she grew coffee and other crops using the common pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
That is, they used them until her partner got a bad case of poisoning from those pesticides.
They wanted to change their practices to take care of their own health, but they knew the benefits extended beyond just their family. Argenis wanted to take care of the land. What the family couldn’t figure out was how to grow organic coffee and make a living doing it.
What fertilizers could they use? How would they control common pests that attack coffee? How could they protect their family’s health and the environment…but also protect their income?
Knowledge that changed everything
Argenis belongs to AMUCC, a women’s organization that works hand in hand with Caficauca, that encouraged women coffee growers to change over to fully organic processes. They invited her to participate in the program, but it sounded too complicated to her. Could all that effort be worth it in the end?
She spoke to her partner, because she knew that changing over to organic wouldn’t be the work of just one person. As Argenis says, “It takes teamwork, and the whole family would have to work shoulder to shoulder to make this work.”
How did her partner react? He said, “Go ahead, go to the meetings, see what it’s all about. I’ll support you.”
The learning curve
For Argenis, the first step was to learn about organic processes. She knew how to grow coffee. But how could she grow it without the chemicals?
She learned about fertilizers, which ones to use and which ones to avoid. They discussed pesticides. And they discussed organic techniques that would compensate for not using those chemicals.
They began to implement organic processes, and they waited for the harvest.
The supreme effort
But as the coffee cherries were harvested and started to come into the processing area, she was distraught. The harvest was half what they expected.
Her only thought was: “I just wanted to give up.”
But they received more training. And especially, more encouragement. For three years she learned, and she continued to try to produce organic coffee.
Organic coffee can make the long days of a farmer even longer. She was often so tired she wanted to quit. But she wasn’t alone. As a family, they worked as a team. They worked hard to get the processes and techniques right. Whatever instruction they received, they were willing to put it into practice.
Argenis lived by the words: “Tell me. Correct me. That way we grow.”
And three long years rolled by…
When the next harvest came around, they started their morning at 4:30 or 5. They returned to the processing area in the evening and often finished processing their coffee at 9 pm or later. Every day. More long days. More hard work.
But now production had improved. They were producing more coffee. They were seeing the results of their efforts.
And when the time came to sell their coffee, they began to see a change in prices. Their organic coffee got premium prices.
Their success isn’t only monetary, although that’s an important part. They know they’re helping the environment by avoiding all those pollutants that damage the environment.
Working for the future
Argenis smiles as she says, “We take care of the planet and our own farm. That makes me feel so proud. And I’m teaching my children to take care of the environment, too. I like what I do. We’re working on using solar energy on the farm, and we compost.”
“When you work toward something in life, you fall many times. You have to get up and move forward, no matter how scary the future can be. If you don’t believe, then nothing happens.”
“But I believe and work hard, and I see the results. I feel very blessed.”
“These 50 Amigas, we are fighters. We don’t give up. You’re helping me fulfill that dream. Thank you for believing in us.” #movingforward #together
Written by: Karen Attman - Latin American Coffee Academy