Origin Story: Colombia Nariño

The Pickers Project, Proyecto Recoloectores, has once again produced a stunning micro lot of coffee that has left our tastebuds abundantly impressed.

At Ferris, we've continued to try and find exciting single origin coffees to roast for you. Always on the look-out for coffees with a story, Colombia Nariño had us captivated. With an emphasis on elevating every person within the supply chain, Azahar Coffee's Picker Project Program directly aligns with our passion to help with the sustainability of the industry. 

Written and provided by Azahar Coffee

The coffee industry's precarious business

Working on a farm is not easy. Farmworkers from all over the world fight to keep their craft alive every day for it continues to be under-recognized and devalued because of capitalism. Regardless of how experienced and careful a farmer is, the success of each crop and resulting harvest is dependent on our planet's volatile and uncontrollable climate.

No matter how much effort is put into a crop, the economic retribution hardly ever corresponds with the sacrifice invested into it. The resulting effect of the precariousness of this industry is disastrous for those involved; most end up migrating into the city and too few stick it out in the countryside, still dedicating their lives to the ancient practice of working the land. 

Within the world of coffee production, the direct consequence of the prolonged denigration of the farmers’ work can be seen in the loss of a trained workforce which has directly affected the quality of the harvest. This is troubling for obvious reasons, but perhaps the most important one being that without a quality harvest at the hand of a trained picker, it is almost impossible to guarantee a cup of coffee of the highest quality. Azahar Coffee is aware of the great responsibility they hold within this supply chain to roasters like Ferris and with this consciousness in mind, they have created the Proyecto Recolectores—the Pickers Project.

One municipality, four townships, 14 producers

For the pilot Pickers Project, a group of 30 pickers was gathered from the vereda (township) of Tasnaque, who committed to expand their knowledge and skill of this craft. Located within the fertile hills of the municipality of Yacuanquer, this area seemed ideal for the project because of its characteristic natural qualities such as the availability of spring water, the right temperatures and an appropriate amount of sunlight. Azahar has sourced great quantities of coffee from here, meaning that they are well-aware of the great effort that goes into the crops of this region. Further-more, they have found a neighborhood within the community known as El Naranjo, where almost everyone is related, both directly and indirectly, making it a fitting location for the Pickers Project to take off.    

Entire generations of coffee-producing families; men and women, were trained by the quality control experts at Azahar in the optimization of harvesting coffee. During a trial workday, they were offered twice the normal pay per kilo picked of coffee cherry at their peak ripeness. With these strong community ties, newly gained practical knowledge and a fortified economic incentive, the pilot project was successful: the quality of the harvest grew significantly, and a new trustworthy relationship was forged from the resulting hard work and the promise of just pay. This year they are very excited to be starting a foundation called Manos al Grano which will be focused on expanding the Pickers Project to two more coffee-producing regions and will also help the workers organize while working towards governmental recognition. 

"The coffee—and subsequent coffees—that came from this experiment has provided with us an immense pride and it permits us to close the fiscal year with the certainty that we are accomplishing one of our main objectives—to help in strengthening the livelihoods of the communities of the Colombian countryside and to offer our clients an exceptional cup of coffee."

This lot rounds out the fifth year of the Pickers Project. This time around, 14 producers—many of them from the same families—from four neighboring veredas were involved, several pioneering partner producers such as Macario Paz, Carlos Efrain Cortes and Jesús Alirio de la Cruz, among them. Azahar has had the tremendous fortune to have worked with most of these partner producers many times before and we thank them for their continued hard work and dedication to a more just system of ethical farm work for all involved.


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