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This is a re-post of a blog from November 12, 2011when Equal Exchange staff Beth Ann Caspersen and Lynsey Miller visited coffee producers in Uganda.To read more about their travels, visit Equal Exchange’s blog series.

Portrait of a Gumutindo Coffee Farm

Lynsey describes walking through a coffee farm on their fifth day:

farm2 Looking Up

There is so much to take in on Jennipher’s small farm in Nasufwa. Banana trees tower above us, as if keeping watch over the activity below. The bunches of bananas are still to green, not yet ready for harvest to sell, not yet ready to mash into matoke and enjoy.

Eye Level

The coffee trees look good, the first red cherries will soon be picked. Many more green cherries will ripen in the coming weeks. We pass an older coffee tree and Beth Ann and Jennipher talk about options for replacing this old tree with a new seedling. A new tree will produce at least three times the coffee that this aging tree is mustering, but there is a trade off: the seedling will take a few years to get to that peak level of production. When is the right time to cut your losses on the aging tree, forgoing its small harvest for several years of no harvest, but knowing you’re investing in a better future return? Every decision on this farm is thoughtful.

Waist High

I keep bumping into this intriguing plant. Its giant leaves sway slowly, and this morning’s rain still clings to it. I am surprised to learn that it’s a yam plant. What a showy display for a root crop.

jennipher2Down Low

At first glance the lower plants look like a chaotic array of tropical weeds. Of course that isn’t so. A patch of chard is to the right, beans climb to the left. Just visible through the branches of the coffee tree is a patch of brown the size of a small room. The lumpiness of this unassuming plot is a giveaway for the potatoes growing underneath.

The Soil

The ground itself gets as much attention as the plants that sprout from it. Jennipher composts her family’s food waste. She has a trench to capture soil during floods, to later redistribute it instead of losing it. She has a whole system for turning her cow’s manure into organic fertilizer.

The Sounds

I’ve never strolled through a coffee plantation, where rows and rows of coffee are all that the eye can see. I’m told they are silent, devoid of animals, birds, and even of most insects. This farm is raucous: cows are braying, birds are chirping, bugs buzzing and – best of all – the family who lives on this farm tells us all about it, proudly.


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