I started this project back in 2014 when Elias Roa, the owner of Finca Tamana, offered me to buy 7 hectares of his land to start my own coffee farm. I immediately started working on the paperwork, and planted my first coffee seeds in March 2014, not really knowing anything about farming coffee.
My goal with this project is to learn about coffee farming, and how to better improve coffee quality through sustainable farming practices.
As I have never grown anything in my life before, I had to read a lot about farming practices. I started learning about conventional (mineral fertilizer based) farming practices, organic and biodynamic practices. The more I learned, the more I realized that I was not going to be able to follow the biodynamic practices unless I stayed long periods on my farm, and also had animals on my farm. Since my business is based in Norway, I am not able to live in Colombia for long periods, so I had to dismiss biodynamic practices. (Although I still follow the lunar calendar.) I did not want to use mineral fertilizers and pesticides, so my only option was to look for organic practices that just works well. I started researching heavily about organic farming, but was getting pessimistic messages from most farmers I talked to. They all said that organic farming is fine, but your yields will drop about 50%, and it is more expensive.
It was not until I met Ed Bourgeois, a farmer and coffee enthusiast, on a coffee conference in Mane, that I started getting on the right track. Ed told me about the work of Dr. Elaine Ingham, and how microorganisms work together with the plant in order to feed it. HE said that most likely I could grow more coffee with better quality, if I only applied the right biology into my soil. I did not really know what to believe, but was curious to learn more. That same night, I went back to my hotel and googled Dr. Elaine Ingham, and watched hours of her lectures and videos on YouTube. It was all very impressive, so I decided to take her online classes, which started in February 2015 and finished in August 2015. That is how I have learned most of my understanding of soil biology, and how I can grow plants without the use of mysterious cow horn preparations or chemicals.
After a lot of bureaucracy and visits to my lawyers office, I finally got my papers in order in June 2015, and I could call myself a landowner in Colombia. By that time, I had already planted the seedlings into the field in February 2015, and my trees were really suffering because of the stressed soils they were planted in. Based on what I had learned in the past year, I started making my first compost during my visit in June, and when I came back in October, I applied the first round of compost extract to the soil. Since it took me over 8 months from planting until the first application of compost extract, I have had to replant a lot of trees due to drought, and lack of nutrients. Still I am optimistic and confident that I will be able to grow the trees in a more healthy way as soon as the biology in my soil is better.
I now have two varieties planted: Typica and Geisha. In about two or three months, I will be planting Caturra as well. The reason why I am doing that, is so that I am able to compare my Caturra with my neighbors' (Elias') Caturra, as I am growing coffee with the help of biology, and he is growing coffee with the help of mineral fertilizers. That way we will be able to directly compare the coffee quality to see what approach is better, for quality purposes.