Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The (Coffee) Fields are Ripe for Harvest

Whew! It has been a while since we’ve “talked” and much has happened. Allen and Trish are home from the U.S. now. Russell, Iris, and R.J. have moved onto the ol’ homestead. And R.J. has learned he’s close enough to yell for Nana and Gampa to get him from his front porch. This post, however, is about The Great Sowers’ Coffee Harvest of 2016!

Harvesting coffee!
For someone who doesn’t even drink coffee and has never seen it growing, I have to tell you, I am ridiculously excited about this! If you’ve been paying attention, you know this is the very first coffee harvest for Sowers4Pastors. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that growing coffee isn’t for people who must have immediate gratification. This harvest has been more than two years in the making.

Just under 9 acres of coffee plants, which went in the ground more than two years ago, are being harvested in three separate harvests. Harvest numero uno has been completed! (Don’t let my obvious mastery of Spanish intimidate you!) Harvest numero two will happen in a month. And, number tres will be one month after that.

The most spectacular news is that the first harvest has greatly exceeded Russell and Allen’s wildest expectations. And you know how wild their expectations can be! Having done his coffee homework, Russell was hoping they would be able to harvest 2000 lbs total, this year. Um, yeah. The first of three harvests has yielded about 3000 pounds of dried coffee. The second harvest will be BIGGER and the third will be about the same size as the first. Expectations have been adjusted and Russell now anticipates a total harvest of 10,000 pounds.

Harvesting coffee

Here’s what a coffee harvest looks like for Russell:

  • The coffee cherries are picked.
  • Russell has 36 hours to get the fruit to a machine that de-pulps it.
  • The machine removes the cherry and leaves only the bean, losing about ⅔ of the total weight.
  • The fruit de-pulper is about 3 miles away from the coffee farm and Russell has been hauling it in the evenings.
  • Once it’s de-pulped, there is a gummy substance on the outside of the bean. The beans are soaked in a washbasin overnight. The next morning, they are washed and the gummy stuff falls off.
  • This year, they are using tarps to dry the coffee in the sun. Eventually, Russell would like to have concrete slabs for this purpose.
  • Once it’s dry, it’s ready to be sold to a middleman, who will possibly do more processing himself, add Russell’s harvest to that of other growers, and then sell the whole shebang to an exporter.

Since this year’s harvest has been so big, Russell is hoping to be able to reinvest some of the earnings to purchase a de-pulper. That will allow them to de-pulp on their own property. It will save time and money. Plus, it will mean they can keep the pulp to use as, what Russell assures me, is the world’s best organic fertilizer. He says if they put the coffee cherries back in the ground, it’s like Miracle Grow! This, of course, will save bookoodles of money on fertilizer.

Removing the fruit, to get to the seed (coffee bean) inside

In his modest way, Russell said, “All of the hard work and investment is starting to pay off. We’ll be putting the money back in the farm. It’s becoming self-sustaining faster than anticipated.”

This link takes you to a video of the de-pulping process, narrated by Russell:

 - posted by Christi

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