This year we spent a whole day visiting the Casallas family. We started, like we always do, with a tour of the farm, talking about last year’s harvest, this year’s harvest, new projects, weather, finances and of course contracts. When that’s all taken care of, we usually sit down, drink some coffee and then we break bread.
Olimpa, Jaime Sr.’s wife, is an amazing cook and a great hostess and her warmth and hospitality always overwhelm you.
When you share a meal with someone it has a very calming effect. Of course when you first arrive at the farm, you are happy to see each other again, but you are also very aware that you are there to conduct business – you are the buyer and they are the sellers. So, the first few hours be very formal, but as soon as you sit down to eat, everything gets very relaxed and you end up sharing stories and ideas which in many ways are just as important as all the formal business stuff. This is the time where you plant the seeds for the future and use each other to get better.
Below are just a few fun stories from our dinner this year. They were just told in casual conversation, but gave us glimpses of were these amazing people come from and we thought they would be worth sharing.
When I was a kid – Jaime Casallas
“I started picking on my father’s farm at the age of 5. Back then everything was done by hand. We picked by hand, we pulped by hand and we washed by hand. We didn’t have any systems to carry water to the farm so we had to carry all the coffee down to the river to wash it there. When I got a little older we bought a depulper, but it was a manual one, which meant that you had to turn a handle for hours a day to pulp your coffee. At that time we produced around 100 bags of green beans, so you can imagine what my hands are like today. You don’t find hands like these on young people anymore”.
Coffee is a way of life – Jaime Casallas
“Growing up my father had the biggest farm in the village. 40 hectars big – 30 of them produced coffee. However, my dad had a weakness for the bottle. He got in over his head and he had to sell the farm, far too cheap, just to cover his debts. We had to start from scratch again.
I have now spent 57 years of my life producing coffee and it has never come easy. If you don’t have a passion for it it’s not worth doing”.
Coffee requires all hands on deck – Olimpa Casallas
“After we lost our first farm to broca we had to start all over again. When we moved here we didn’t have a proper set-up to produce coffee yet, so we had to get by with help from neighbours and family, for example we had to pulp our coffee using our neighbour’s depulper.
Now, I usually don’t take part in processing our coffee, but back then I helped out in all areas of running the farm. I remember one particular day, where Jaime had to go to the town and I had to do the pulping. I started up the machine, but my shirt got caught in the engine. I called out for help but nobody came, which resulted in the machine swallowing my shirt, leaving me in a very precarious position. Coffee is hard work”.