The work that Edwin Martinez and Don Edwin Martinez put into Finca Vista Hermosa is inspiring. They have always had a clear focus on quality and social responsibility. This is very much in line with us at The Coffee Collective.
Through the years our relationship has only become stronger. We stick together through tough times – like when the rust some years back took 90% of their crop. Our relation has been kept based upon a sound business.
In the year where they were hit hard by the rust, we paid more to them, in order to help the alleviate situation. Last year when our liquidity was tight, because of opening two new coffee shops Edwin, was kind enough to give us extra credit time.
This way we try to help each other out. But we always keep our focus on the business we do together. The core of which is that they produce a coffee of a quality we and our costumers really appreciate. And we pay them a price that rewards their hard work that makes this particular quality.
There is a mutual respect since we have been working together for this many years. We have an honest, open communication about what developments at Finca Vista Hermosa could be interesting as seen from our perspective.
On that note; Last year I was showed the start of their variety garden. Here they grow 14 different varieties and 80-100 trees of each. It is interesting as 80-100 trees is enough to make some of the lots a size that can give a volume big enough to present to costumers. They expect that the first few varieties will be ready to pick this year – something we will look very much forward to.
I chose to visit Finca Vista Hermosa at the start of the harvest this year. Before going up to the finca I sat down with Edwin and Don Edwin and discussed possibilities for fine tuning things for the starting harvest.
We agreed to have a closer look at the consistency of ripeness in the cherries delivered to their mill. The pickers at Finca Vista Hermosa are very experienced and are doing a really good job. But we agreed that it could be worth a shot to make a process with them to see if we could push the level even higher.
One of the advantages of having worked together for so many years: We have built a joint understanding and trust. It allows us to dive in to the fine-tuning details with a very clear, mutual understanding of the purpose of it.
We at TCC are very conscious about not giving a lot of advices to what a producer should do, when in the early phase of a relationship. We believe that it is better to focus on building mutual trust and respect in the beginning of the relationship. Then later on add the discussions of, what could be improved in the long run.
When we arrived at Finca Vista Hermosa, Edwin talked to the farm managers about the idea of making a process out of the possibilities to lift the consistency of ripe cherries picked. They shared their thoughts and concerns. Then they developed with Edwin the plan for how to start the process, when picking was going on the following day.
The following day the pickers went out to pick and came back to the mill a bit early. This way they had time for talking about the evenness of picking. They discussed the possibilities for improvement, and what support they would need from Edwin to do so.
To me the dialogue between Edwin and the pickers showed me a lot about how Edwin’s approach on management is very inspiring. He casually sat down on the edge of the receiving tank. This made the talk more relaxed and as a manager he did not appear controlling. He was paying attention and interested in their view on the matter.
Edwin presented the idea of doing an extra sorting here at the reception to raise the level of even ripeness in the cherries. This spurred the pickers to air their perspective on picking. One lady showed her bag of cherries and said she always picked fully ripe cherries. She was right, as there were only a few unripe ones in her bag.
A gentleman went in for a longer analysis of the issue and stated different possible strategies. In general, it was a really good dialogue about what “even ripeness” is. Especially how it can be achieved in the picking and post-harvest sorting.
Edwin was listening and asking questions. He was showing pictures, illustrating very even picking and post-harvest sorting.
After some good and meaningful discussions, the pickers agreed to spread out their cherries on plastic “matts”. They did this to do a post-sorting, in order to increase the consistency in picking and the ripeness. The idea being that for every step you can sort, you can raise the quality even more. Even though they do a good job at harvesting, and extra sorting before going to the mill, the quality can be improved even further.
Having the cherries spread out showed that there was some, like the former mentioned lady, who already picked extremely evenly ripe cherries. It also showed that others had picked more to what they had understood was the wish, at Finca Vista Hermosa. Through this talk and the process with extra sorting, the understanding of how even the ripeness of the cherries should be was clearer.
There was of course a matter of extra work for the pickers. This is why they quite quickly stated, that doings this job, would require more from them. They gently asked to be compensated for the extra work.
Edwin started a dialogue with them and asked, how much they thought was a suitable extra pay. Through this negotiation I was impressed by the openness showed by Edwin. They ended up agreeing on an increase of 25% in pay for the amount of cherries brought in.
This showed how Edwin, works from a management perspective. It is fundamental for his business, that his workers are happy about their working conditions – including payments. If the workers are not happy they will not support the quality development.
We look very much forward to taste the difference when the harvest is finished. I expect the sweetness to be even higher than normal and maybe with some more pronounced aromas?
As it is ten years since we started working with Finca Vista Hermosa, we recommend you to read about our first visit, divided in three: