Beans, birds and butterflies

My first coffee farm visit this week..  Very exciting!

Getting lost en route there was all part of the adventure. A long, twisty, winding road up into the mountains dwindled away into narrow, bumpy, patchily paved one. Our only directions: Farmer Sanchez, down in the valley, farm on the left, down a small road before the wooden house. Er, ok. A perfectly normal set of instructions by Costa Rican standards. Lots of small roads and wooden houses later, we found him.

Senor Sanchez was your perfect model farmer.. Hearty and engaging, his enthusiasm for his beans, birds and butterflies was matched only by that for beer… and after a morning scrambling up and down hot, steep slopes catching gauzy winged creatures, counting birds, and taking soil samples,  it wasn’t hard to share!

A 'shade grown' coffee farm - shade, what shade?

We’re here to measure biodiversity and the general environmental health of the farm..the idea in part being to make sure he’s still qualified for Nespresso and Rainforest Alliance Triple A standards, but more importantly to establish if there is any correlation between a healthy ecosystem and a healthy crop of beans.. Our nerdy-but-nice bird and butterfly man had counted 21 species of butterfly, and 12 different types of bird.. all in the space of 3 acres, and still counting!

Apparently the presence of ‘a riperian feature’ (river or stream – for those of you, like me, whose O’level Geography lie in the dim distant past..) helps with general abundance of all sorts too.

A nifty wrist action is clearly what it’s all about when it comes to catching butterflies.  That, and the lure of a sticky banana under a crafty net trap..  Holding them, however, is a delicate business. Thumb and forefinger on the thorax, he explained, while you examine their colouring. Not on the body, or they will go splat. Yuk.

Sticky banana trap

John the Butterfly Catcher

Coffee bushes are now in bloom, and the smell is a glorious one.. small white flowers that waft a warm, sweet fragrance  (a relation of the gardenia apparently). So nice a smell, in fact, that somebody has already bottled it to out in a duty free store near you!

Cafe latte

Green Beans

Senor Sanchez had to hussle us out of his house rather apologetically to take his triple jump athlete daughter 140km away to her training session..a twice weekly affair. But it’s worth it, he said – pointing to a cupboard stashed full of medals. Having both a highly productive farm and daughter to boot, was clearly a great source of pride. ‘But she’ll be back to help with the harvest of course!’… I can’t help thinking that the same expectation visited on your average teenage daughter in the UK would work quite so well..

Oblivious to all this chat about Triple A coffee standards and triple jump medals, was this little spotted pig, sunbathing happily in the back yard.  Hard morning’s work, only a banana and some beer in the stomach… Bacon sarnie anyone?

And this little piggy's going to market..


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