Mikaila Way, a senior environmental studies major from
Pacific University, joined us as a volunteer in January of 2012 on a harvest
workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico. In these
excerpts, she describes a typical evening with our friends and host famers
after a day of coffee picking, and talks abut how her time with Thomas and
Elvira influenced how she views coffee.
Under the moonlit sky, we’d return
to the roof to sweep up the drying beans we’d spread in the morning and cover
them for the night. As we brought in the berries we’d picked that day, Thomas
taught us how to wash them in large concrete basin of water and then run them
through the pulp mill. Overnight the pulped beans fermented in their sweet,
slimy layer to break down that outer coating. While some of the group tended to
the pulping, some of us would work with Elvira to prepare the evening meal with
beans, that morning’s left over tortillas and warm cups of atole. Despite tiredness, we shared laughter and stories over our
third warm meal of the day.
After we cleared dinner from the
table, we sat back down to sort the dry beans in preparation for roasting. Now
all that was left of the berries were hard, dry, greenish halves of the coffee
beans. This is the final stage before the beans are roasted for market. Pounds
upon pounds, bags upon bags of dry, hulled, green beans are sorted by hand to
separate the sound whole beans from debris and abnormally formed beans. Just as
picking berries in the sun had a sort of meditative rhythm, so did the sorting
of the beans in the quiet evenings. It was a good time for talking, and it was
while sorting beans that that Thomas and Elvira told us how they had come to
coffee farming. They met in their
mid-twenties, some 30 years ago. When they were younger, they worked in Mexico
City for over ten years in order to earn enough money to buy land back in the
mountains where they grew up and start their farm. In all of their stories, I heard such
intention and a strong belief in the work they’ve dedicated themselves to.
Elvira and Tomas cultivate their
coffee organically and on the shady slopes of the intact mountain forests. As
they explained to us, they know they must care for the health of land just like
they do for themselves and each other.
Not all coffee growers in grow coffee with such ecologically sound practices.
By learning some of the process, and making it more personal by meeting this
farm and its owners I have a new appreciation of a globally important
product. Now when I see people drinking
coffee, I wonder where it came from, how it was grown, who picked it? Who
pulped, dried, husked, sorted and roasted it? What are the conditions of work,
of land, of the trees, those workers and t heir communities? Not only have I
gained a heightened awareness of one way to cultivate and produce organic
coffee, but I have also built relations to the process. I have personal
connections and care for the well being of Elvira , Tomas, and their family and
neighbors in Tanetze de Zaragoza.
SweetRoot Farm Fall Harvest Offerings
We couldn't build a farm or community without your support and contribution! Noah and Mary, 76 Bell Lane, Hamilton MT