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Our Women Farmers - Part Two

Armando and Virgilia demonstrate the motorized pulpero, which they use to remove the pulp from the red, mature coffee fruits.

(Did you miss Part One of this blog post? You can check it out by clicking here.)

Next up was the home of four coffee farmers: Lesbia, her husband Armando, her sister-in-law Virgilia, and Armando's father, Miguel. Many similarities exist between these two women and Marta: a father (-in-law) who is a coffee farmer and can give guidance and instruction; a desire to own more land; and viewing ownership as a pathway to success. Lesbia and Virgilia have been in the coffee cooperative for five years, and also have one cuerda of land each. Like Marta, this is the first year of production and they are excited for what that means.

However, Lesbia and Virgilia have been processing coffee throughout their time in the cooperative. They buy coffee fruit from other landowners and, as members of the cooperative, are able to use the pulpero, trilla and other processing equipment that they have access to. This is an advantage they have over farmers who aren't in the cooperative. So while this is the first year they'll be processing their own coffee fruit, they're already pros at it. They aim to export 1500 pounds of coffee after this year's harvest. (Marta has also been buying and processing coffee from other farmers.)

The women from BFB enjoy coffee, freshly roasted and prepared by Armando, Virgilia and Lesbia.

The common threads continue: Lesbia's school-age children are all in school (that's the oldest four; there are three more in the wings), and she and Armando have another business to bring in additional income. They have a chicken slaughtering operation, and provide many of the town's tiendas and markets with fresh chicken to sell. This means rising between 3:00 and 4:00 am every morning to make their morning chicken deliveries, before heading up the volcano to tend to their coffee work.

Again, the women's stories were impressive and inspiring, and left Christine, Pilar and Caroline excited about the help they'll be able to provide in getting these women additional land for coffee growing. The tricky part comes in finding that land. Marta has already seen one agreed-upon sale of land fall through, and Lesbia and Virgilia have also struggled. But once this year's harvest ends (in late February, early March), all are optimistic about their opportunities.

Before parting ways, the group enjoyed freshly roasted coffee and a sweet treat of candied camote (a close relative of the sweet potato). Hugs are kisses were exchanged as the BFB team left, with promises to see them soon on their next trip in a few months.