Our founder and head of coffee Elliot Reinecke recently explored Brazil for a special micro-lot auction auction and visit to FAF farms. There was a lot of inspiration from the entire trip, and this is a quick observation of the FAF farming practices.
"You're probably aware that Brazil is the worldwide leader in production of coffee, usually setting the C-market value. But until you have been there to see the farming practices, and other coffee producing countries for comparison, it's quite incomprehensible.
Many farmers there have taken practice from the monoculture of the midwest of the USA (not just the midwest but primarily), completely removing all rainforest and planting their coffee neatly in rows to allow space to get tractors in for mass harvesting. Most farmers only plant three varietals that were bred to be very resistant to disease, produce cherries in full sunlight, and produce massive amounts of coffee per branch.
Not quite full traditional, but how most farms in Brazil are planted, full sun high production
Fortunately for all of us there are some farmers there that are trying to change the stigma of Brazilian coffee, and are starting to focus more on organic/biodynamic farming practices and high quality coffee.
We were able to spend a few days on the FAF family farm this past weekend, who is literally leading a farming revolution in Brazil, and quite possibly the world. Many years ago Felipe Croce and his dad Marcos decided they had had enough with 'classic' farming techniques. Before working on the coffee, Marcos decided he needed to work on the farm and its environmental health. Believing that only after everything else was happy and healthy, would the specialty coffee follow.
Active biodynamic farming on FAF
Coffee growing in harmony with nature
Felipe Croce touring us on the FAF farm
First thing Marcus did was to clean the water. The farm has 42 springs that offer great drinking water, as well as clean water for processing coffees. He installed natural bio-dynamic water filtration systems to clean all water on the farm so that it is not harmful to themselves, the environment, other farmers land, and also that water is clean when it is returned to the land.
The next thing that Marcos focused on was bringing life back to the farm. He did that by planting many different species of trees and getting rid of the mono-crop idea of farming. He immediately lost 90% of his production the first 5 years of farm transformation.
Not wanting to use herbicides or pesticides like many other farmers, Felipe and Marcos started learning about Organic and biodynamic farming. They researched about passive and active organic farming and setup little test areas all around the farm to learn which trees worked well with different varietals of coffee. They learned which trees would give when other trees were in need and visa vera, and how everything could work together in harmony to be a complete ecosystem.
With all of these changes wildlife started to return to the farm along with clean water and shade, the farm feels like a living breathing organism when you are on it. Completely alive!
Different varietals being grown in the rainforest
Bottom line, they are leading the way in sustainable biodynamic farming in Brazil, and possibly in the world, but they didn't stop there. They took the farming practices they have learned over the last decade and are helping other farmers interested in producing specialty coffee using sustainable farming practices.
A total living and breathing organism
This has allowed many local farmers to get into the specialty market which is a huge challenge for coffee farmers worldwide. It has also allowed them to live happier, healthier lives knowing they aren't harming the environment, and aren't stressing about competing with other 'corporate' type farms that are producing massive amounts of coffee. They can focus on quality; quality of coffee, quality of life, and quality of the environment, all because we are willing to support their cause by buying, roasting and serving their coffee and hard work.
FAF coffees helped fund a clean water project with for a local farmer
How most farming countries look before clearing trees to plant coffee
We have 4 new coffees coming from Brazil this year. The first is a micro lot that we purchased in an auction during the BSCA region showcase. Two coffees from FAF's neighboring farms and their Bobolink project. As well as another coffee from a FAF project; Reserva Capixaba.