My account

A surprising path towards organic farming in Guatemala

Earlier this year we had the chance to travel back to an origin that feels a little bit like coming home. Partly due to the time spent here working on different projects and visiting farms in the area and partly due to the warm welcome we receive each time we visit our friends Josué, Carolina and the entire team behind LVC.

Josué and Carolina Morales are the owners of Los Volcanes Coffee located in Antigua, in the Central Highlands of Guatemala. This historical town is surrounded by three volcanoes, namely the dormant Acatenango and Pacaya and the dangerously active Fuego. Although these volcanoes have caused quite the disasters throughout history, and even recent history (Fuego’s eruption led to a tragedy in 2018), coffee varieties such as ‘Bourbon’ and ‘Catuai’ thrive on the fertile, porous volcanic soils that perfectly retain moisture.

We were excited to visit the area again to see the progress that was made since we were there a few years ago. Josue and the team have been leading in organic agricultural practices and research for over a decade now. But it hasn’t always been like that, the path to organic farming has been quite an interesting one.

In 2010 Guatemala, with most of Latin America, was seriously hit by the destructive leaf rust called Roya; a fungal disease that prevents the survival mechanisms of the coffee plant by affecting photosynthesis. At that time, Josue’s only requirement was the quality of the cup, which was seriously affected by the leaf rust. Left with a destroyed coffee farm, he realized that he needed a different way forward. 

After extensive research into different ways of agriculture, Beneficio la Esperanza, the farm located closest to Antigua, became the testing ground for a whole lot of different experiments. Josue decided to divide the farm into separate areas where he applied different farming methods; different levels of fertilizer, nutrition etc.

To his great disappointment, none of his experiments were fruitful and Josue found a farm that wasn’t producing in any of the tested areas. There was nothing left to do other than retreat and going back to the drawing board.

A year had gone by when Josue was walking through the farm now completely overgrown with weeds and grass; a walk that completely changed his outlook on agriculture. What he discovered was surprisingly healthy plants underneath the overgrowth. Evenmore, the plants that were thriving the most, despite the frost, were the ones that were completely left on it’s own.

The conclusion to which Josue arrived was inevitable: leaving nature alone to form its natural self-balancing systems and to carry its natural processes has no substitute.

“Organic agriculture is a system that sustains life, health, and the structure of soil.”

Los Volcanes Coffee now looks after many farms in the area, sharing their wisdom on organic practices they acquired through trial and error. While walking across some of the new farms Josue elaborates: ‘many people think organic farming is the absence of chemicals or fertilizer, but it goes way beyond that. Organic farming is health, it’s nature, it’s basically life. I say yes to life. This is what has made all the difference in my work and in myself as a human being’.

“That our coffee has an outstanding cup quality is a fact, but it’s not my main objective –let alone my sole objective– anymore. It’s just a byproduct of caring about nature, caring about life, and caring about people.”

We cannot agree more. Thank you for another inspiring visit to Josue, Carolina and the epic team at Los Volcanes Coffee.

More like this