The world population consumes more than 400 billion cups of coffee each year. So it’s clear that coffee producers have to meet an enormous demand. How does a coffee farmer live and work? What does a typical day look like for the people who grow this amazing resource? Let’s take a look.
Equiano Coffee is proud to work with excellent coffee farmers around the globe. By cultivating relationships with them, we are able to bring high-end specialty coffee to you. Shop online or stop in at our Eugene, OR, tasting room to try one of our delicious roasts.
Year-Round Work for the Coffee Farmer
Coffee growers work tirelessly to make sure their crops remain healthy enough to go to market. Although the harvest season may be only a few months, there are tasks to do all year long. There isn’t much downtime for these producers.
Preparation and Planting
The coffee farmer must spend a great deal of time on soil preparation for the seedbeds. Soil conditions are a critical component to having healthy, marketable beans. Sometimes farmers must make amendments to the soil and substrate to make it suitable for planting.
When getting the seedbeds ready, farmers pay attention to temperature and moisture. They try to plant during the dry season so that there is less risk of the plants getting sick. Depending on the location, this planting window will vary. For example, in Guatemala, it is generally around March or April that the coffee farmer plants the seeds. Altitude, along with moisture and temperature, will dictate the proper planting season.
The workers place organic material over the seeds to protect them as they germinate. After about six weeks, they remove this material and make sure there is sufficient shade for the soon-to-emerge seedlings.
To the Nursery
Once the growers see a pair of leaves, the cotyledon leaves, they know it’s time to move the seedlings to the coffee nursery. They must be cautious and vigilant with the plants in the nursery.
Appropriate shade and water are crucial. And the workers must make sure to avoid contaminants in the nursery, as well. Non-organic farms may apply fertilizer during this time, but organic coffee farmers will use different methods to keep the plants healthy.
Time to Plant
After several months in the nursery, it is time for the farmers to plant their crops in the ground. Often, this ends up being during a rainy season. While the coffee plants were in the nursery, the workers were preparing the holes for planting. Again, they work within a specific window of time to make sure the holes are ready without being so early that they erode.
The coffee farmer must pay attention to how much shade is available from other trees. They also have to consider altitude and terrain when planting.
Workers select the healthiest plants for transplanting, carefully checking the root system and leaves. They make sure to water the soil before moving the plants to their new homes.
Management and Waiting
As the plants grow, the coffee farmer must test the soil periodically to determine if fertilizer is necessary. Some farms use chemical fertilizers, while organic operations use different methods.
During the growing period, about three or four years, farmers watch for signs of disease or infestation. They also prune the trees as necessary to encourage more production.
And, of course, the workers are dealing with earlier crops on the farm, too. The rotation of plants means there is always more work to do.
Harvest and Processing Time
Harvesting the coffee cherries is usually the busiest time for farmers because it often coincides with planting time. They have to get the fruit off the plants, either by hand or by machine.
After the harvest, workers dry and process the fruit as it ferments. Many farms around the globe use the wet-washed method for processing their beans, while others use the dry method. This step in coffee production is very time-sensitive, as the farmers work to get the optimal flavor to develop.
Don’t Forget the Business Side
A coffee farmer has plenty to think about to keep their plants healthy and robust. But they also have to spend time running the business. Marketing and distribution demand a significant amount of their time throughout the production cycle. They work hard to get their product to the global market.
The Equiano Partnership
At Equiano Coffee, it’s an honor to partner with excellent coffee growers around the world. From Africa to South America to SE Asia, high-quality farmers provide us with the gourmet coffee you deserve.