Our stay in Monteverde culminated with a visit to Café de Monteverde. We were given a nice tour, and we were able to leave our mark on the plantation by planting trees! This is a family owned business that still has some room to grow, so our tour felt much more genuine, the people seemed more passionate about what they do, and most of all, we got the opportunity to learn more about their lives as farmers.
The first thing I noticed when we got there was the friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Everyone there was family, and you could tell by the way their facilities were laid out, the way they interacted with one another, and even how well we were welcomed. This is what I like to think the lives of many Tico farmers are like. They take great pride in their work, and love coming in to work with family, making it feel a little less like work.
Many of these farmers do work with their families, but that doesn’t mean it is happy all the time. Any business will face challenges. I think one big challenge is labor. Some of these farms are still pretty big, so they need to hire some workers. Today, the tour guides mentioned that one of the wives of the owners, doña Ana, is very good at her job and gets a lot of work done. They made it sound like there is a lot of work to do with a small amount of people. They also didn’t seem to express many strong bonds with supply chain members since they are such a small company. Café de Monteverde is a vertically integrated company, and with that comes a lot more work. It is nice to be able to control everything farm to cup, but it is also a lot of work and requires people with many different types of expertise.
Most people still in the agriculture industry are there because thay grew up on farms. They have lived their whole lives like this, and love it. The one tour guide that now lives in New York City says she comes back all the time because this is her “roots”. Growing up seeing your family work hard for all the food they have gives these children an appreciation for agriculture and want to carry on the legacy. They are not happy doing this job because of the money or the recognition. One response we got when asking why they still farm is that it is satisfying knowing that someone uses your service many times a day. You only go to the doctor’s office or need a lawyer every so often, but you need to eat every day. Even if you aren’t being recognized, it’s fulfilling knowing that your service is needed so much. A second response was that it is important to carry on the family business. The daughter did not want a farm like this to be sold to Starbucks. If a big company ran this farm, it would be treated worse, and probably not make as good of coffee. These people care so much about their work because their family name is attached to the product. Every single bean picked and every single batch roasted is important because it carries on the family name. With a big company, a small farm like this would not be important at all. To see something be created by your family and be taken away by someone that doesn’t even care that much about it is not something this family wants to see.
These people are fantastic motivated workers, and I don’t know if I could do the same in their shoes. I would care about the family name and making quality coffee, but the manual labor is A LOT. I would not be able produce as much or as good of coffee in their positions. Yes, you do need to care, but you also need to be good at and know what you are doing. I would definitely put forth my best efforts, but it doesn’t sound like they would be as good as this family’s work.