MEET OUR FARMERS
Our Meet Our Farmers series provides a glimpse into the history, legacy and dedication of the farming families whom we partner with. When you purchase San Francisco Bay Coffee, you are joining our efforts to improve the lives of our farmers and those in their communities around the world.
March 23, 2021
Finca San Jose, Honduras
Jose Carlos Mejia on his farm, San Jose, overlooking the Sensenti valley, western Honduras. Photo Credit: Erick Ventura
Jose Carlos Mejia, his wife Marianela, and their three children, Carlos Danilo, Mirna and Ronald, live in the arid valley of Sensenti in western Honduras. The town they call home, El Coloal, located in the municipality of San Francisco del Valle, was founded when there was a small gold rush in the area. Their house, constructed of thick adobe blocks, high cedar ceilings and clay roof tiles, is one of the first that was built by settlers in the late 1800s. Don Carlos began coffee farming in 1985 when he sowed just one acre of land near his home to start. Over the last 32 years, with profits from the sales of his crops, he has purchased more land and grown more coffee.
The Mejia family (L to R): Jose Carlos (farm owner), Carlos Antonio (grandson), Angel Mejia (nephew), Marianela (wife), Mirna (daughter), Carlos Danilo (son). Photo Credit: Erick Ventura
Today his farm, Finca San Jose, covers 62 acres along a sweeping hillside surrounded by 80 acres of old-growth sweetgum forest, which he conserves. From nearly all points on the farm, at altitudes from 5,000-5,600 feet above sea level, it is possible to see the towns and villages in the valley below, including San Marcos and Sensenti. Principal coffee varieties grown on the farm include: Paca, Lempira, Catimor and IHCAFE-90.
Don Carlos recounts that the farm was the site of the original gold mine that settlers came to exploit between 1830-1880. In Spanish-speaking countries, hulled green coffee is referred to as “café oro” or “gold coffee.” Perhaps there is no farm for which this is more true than that of Don Carlos.
Finca San Jose, surrounded by 45 manzanas (32 hectares) of sweetgum forest.
Don Carlos’ son, Carlos Danilo, provides his father support with the everyday management of the farm as well as harvest. He helps him to fertilize and weed farms during the course of the year, as well as pick, depulp, wash and dry coffee during harvest. Notably, all coffee is washed by hand in a “canal de correteo,” or washing channel behind their home to avoid damage to the beans.
Father and son: Carlos Danilo and Carlos Antonio, in front of the family’s drying operation. Photo Credit: Erick Ventura
His daughter Mirna, a psychologist at the local school, keeps the farm’s accounting, and his wife Marianela contributes to the work of the farm by seeing that everyone is well fed and taken care of. One of Marianela’s specialties is sopa de gallina, or chicken soup, a favorite in Honduran villages.
Right: Chicken soup, Honduran style.
Photo Credit: Erick Ventura
The family also employs 20 people year-round to keep up maintenance activities on the farm. During harvest, 60 additional workers are needed for picking. The family is proud to provide so many people with the opportunity for year-round as well as temporary employment. The family and workers are currently finishing up the harvest and processing activities for 2021. The last coffees are drying on patios, and the family will soon begin to weed and fertilize for next year’s crop.
Speaking with Carlos Danilo, he mentions that each year it becomes more difficult to produce quality coffee. “Not only has it gotten harder and harder to find laborers to work our farm, but this year fertilizer prices have risen approximately five dollars per 100 pounds. The only way that we are able to make a profit farming is by selling to buyers like San Francisco Bay Coffee that value the quality of our product and pay a premium.”
His father adds that despite the difficulties that go with coffee farming, it is one of the few means to generate an income in Honduras. He says that when he began farming as a young man, he never imagined owning a car, but thanks to coffee he was able to purchase his first pickup – a Toyota 22R – in 1990.
Top Left: Coffee cherry being measured, bagged and readied for transport after a day’s picking. Top Right: Carlos Danilo holding up old pictures of a coffee tree nursery, and he and his brother and cousin playing in a pile of coffee parchment. Bottom Left: Jose Carlos Mejia as a young man with his mother and aunt. Bottom Right: Three generations of the Mejia family, Carlos Danilo, Carlos Antonio and Jose Carlos Mejia walking along the main road of the farm; a large Sweetgum tree that the property boasts is pictured in the background. Photo Credit: Erick Ventura
When asked what message he has for consumers, he says “Please keep purchasing and consuming our coffee and valuing it well. This ensures that we can continue to farm as well as take care of our families.”
With profits from their farm, Don Carlos and family invest in the future of their children and grandchildren as well as continue to plant new parcels. Carlos Danilo’s son, Carlos Antonio, age 6, is already very involved on the farm. His favorite part of being a farmer is tagging along with the workers to haul, depulp and wash coffee cherry. “I love being on the farm,” he says. “It is filled with flowers and plants. I want to be a farmer one day just like my dad and grandpa.”
Jose Carlos’ sons, Carlos and Ronald, as young children.
The coffee you drink from Honduras, and from all our origins, comes from a labor of love in every cup. When you choose San Francisco Bay Coffee products, you are directly supporting farmer families like that of Don Carlos Mejia to carry on their way of life as well as deliver a quality product to you.
Photographs Curtesy: Erick Ventura Photography
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