Monday, January 13, 2014

A new approach at the UMF beneficio

We’re firing up the depulping machine at the UMF beneficio in La Unión, ready for the 2014 coffee harvest! This year will look a little different at the beneficio – let us tell you what’s new and what we hope to accomplish through the changes we’ve made.

Each year, we learn more about coffee processing and how to better achieve our goals of quality, training, and environmental sustainability. The 2013 harvest season saw successes in all three of these areas, but we want to improve on it by making changes for the 2014 harvest.

The biggest change we’ve made is that only four different farmers will process their coffee at the UMF beneficio this year. These farmers were pre-selected based on their participation in previous years at the beneficio and in our microloan program. The main idea for having only four farmers each year is to ensure that we are able to provide the best training experience possible, so that they will be able to replicate and continue processing high quality coffee on their own in future years.

The fermentation tanks get tiling after being split in half.
In addition, we (UMF) and the farmers will be better able to manage how much coffee is coming to the beneficio for processing, and when. Each of the four farmers will be assigned an entire solar dryer and two fermentation tanks (we modified our previous tanks to divide them in half and create eight tanks in total). Farmers will be in charge of managing this equipment, so they will know before they pick coffee if they have room at the UMF beneficio to process, ferment, and dry it. Through this experience, farmers will learn about managing the coffee processing at their own beneficios in the future.

By working in-depth with four farmers during this harvest, we will also be able to visit coffee farms on the day of picking and offer on-site advice on picking quality coffee. High quality picking is one of the areas that we have identified as having the greatest impact on final quality, so this will benefit the farmers (who will get a higher price for better quality) as well as consumers, who will get even better coffee at the end of the day.

Also, we’ll require farmers to spend at least 20 hours at the UMF beneficio to learn about the different processing stages that their coffee is going through, including receiving, fermentation and drying. This in-depth training is important to enable farmers to process their own coffee in the future. Since we also want to make sure that other farmers have the opportunity to receive this training in the future, we’re limiting the number of years that a farmer can process at the UMF beneficio.

All of these changes will continue to transform the beneficio into a stepping stone to farmers achieving their own coffee processing capabilities. Within the next few years, we are excited to see farmers graduate from the UMF beneficio and implement high quality, environmentally sustainable beneficios of their own. We will be posting updates throughout the harvest!


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