Farm Diaries: Finca La Paz Part One

Besides being our esteemed Director of Coffee, Byron Jackson Holcomb is a licensed Q grader, meaning he’s able to evaluate cofeees and calibrate his palate with the best in the world. And when he’s not in Ozone Park, he’s managing his own coffee farm, Finca La Paz, in the Dominican Republic. Byron recently checked in from Finca La Paz and sent us these dispatches from the front lines of coffee. Keep checking back for further installments.

23 September 2011: The Journey

I got the bump to First Class. The weed eater got through security. I took a public bus to San Juan and listened to the usual loud hilarious conversations that happen on those buses. It all started because the guys who sell roasted corn apparently don’t wash their hands after going pee. Then a guy accused all women of using all 5 fingers to wipe. The woman (about 40 yrs) who started the gender war demanded to be called Senorita. A name reserved for young virgins. I will spare you what the bus discussed after that.

It was hilarious.

Now I’m at a hotel in San Juan, tomorrow I take the weeder to a welder’s shop to get a metal guard fitted. I need to buy some supplies for the parabolic drying bed then catch the only truck to Los Frios in the market at 12 noon.

26 September 2011: Arrival

When the owner isn’t present things take more time. When the owner has no idea what to do things take even more time.

It feels like that, now that my farm is 4 years old, I have a pretty good idea about making this farm work for me. I’ve made almost every mistake so far. Wrong cleaning methods. Paid too much for coffee in the tree. Wrong planting methods. Letting Antonio “prune”. Not planning far enough in advance for farm work.

Anyway. It feels like now I have the horse under control. Aida Battle sent me a picture of a weed-eater-guard her workers use to protect the coffee trees from a renegade weed wacker, which was the missing piece of technology I needed. Now I have one installed on mine. Today Antonio and I covered the basics on how to use the weed wacker that served as my checked bag en route here. This might save me a ton of money in cleanings.

Antonio has put dried bean plants tied up and hung them in different parts of the farm to encourage the growth of a fungus that kills the broca. It actually seems to discourage the growth.

I’ve been told by many that banana is not beneficial to cafe. Wrong. I’ve allowed Antonio to plant many many bananas in the areas we are re-establishing coffee. A friend told me that we need to plant even more. I’m happy to. Fill every inch. I don’t care that I can’t sell the bananas. Let em rot with the rest I can’t sell.

There are a lot more examples, but I will spare you the details of happy lime trees which could pay the rent, and chayote and passion fruit that only cost me money.

No’ vemo’ pronto.

to be continued…