MEET OUR FARMERS
Our Meet Our Farmers series provides a glimpse into the history, legacy and dedication of the farming families whom we partner with. When you purchase San Francisco Bay Coffee, you are joining our efforts to improve the lives of our farmers and those in their communities around the world.
October 25, 2020
Finca El Trapiche, Honduras
Maria Liduvina Mejia Vasquez, owner of Finca El Trapiche, Honduras. San Francisco Bay Coffee partner since 2012.
Maria Liduvina Mejia Vasquez, known affectionately as “Vina” to her family and friends, has been a coffee farmer and community activist for most of her life. She and her husband, German Lemus, established Finca El Trapiche in Honduras in 1975. Before their land was cleared to sow coffee, the 17-acre property was planted with sugar cane that was processed into brown sugar by an on-site mill. The Finca El Trapiche name comes directly from the heritage of the land, as “trapiche” is the Spanish word for sugar cane mill.
Finca El Trapiche is located in the mountain village of Monte de Virgen, Lempira, tucked into the rugged hillsides surrounding Celaque National Park. At 4,200 feet above sea level, the farm is nestled amongst a cloud forest that also houses the country’s highest peak. This tropical region is known for its ideal soil and growing conditions and boasts more than 50 inches of rainfall per year.
Vina Mejia sun-drying coffee.
Vina became the sole proprietor of Finca El Trapiche at the young age of 34 when she was widowed. She has successfully overseen the operations, maintenance, harvest, processing and coffee sales for the past three decades. While running the farm, she has also raised her eight children, using the profits from the farm to invest in her children’s education and upbringing. Today, she is the proud mother of a lawyer, a psychologist, a teacher, a nurse, an administrator, an engineer, a mechanic and a coffee farmer who helps her manage Finca el Trapiche. Vina shares, “I have enjoyed being a farmer for the last 30 years because it is a family patrimony that provides me and my children with an honest livelihood.”
All of her children contribute financially to maintain the farm and share in the profits. Two of her children live with her on the farm, along with seven of her 18 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Her son, German, manages the year-round farm maintenance duties, and her grandchildren assist with drying coffee on patios and solar dryers.
Top Left: Vina's son German and grandson checking on the harvest. Top Right: Vina with her daughter Lousiana on graduation day. Bottom: Vina with her daughters and granddaughters.
As a small, family-owned farm, Vina explains, “We have no workers who live on the farm year-round, because we are able to manage the work ourselves, together with local people who are hired to do tasks such as weeding and fertilization on a contract basis. During harvest, community members are paid by the bucket to help us pick our beans. Sometimes it is difficult to find workers locally, and we must transport workers each day from villages that are further away. When workers come from farther away, we prepare their meals for them.”
Finca El Trapiche’s farm management practices are environmentally friendly and include using machetes to weed the plantations and applying organic composts to improve soil nutrition. “Our coffees are glyphosate-free, meaning no chemical weedkillers are used on our farm, because they are poison for the plants, our workers and us,” explains Vina. During harvesting, only red cherries are picked. Beans are depulped and fermented in a traditional mill and then sun dried on patios or solar dryers.
Vina and her family have been proud suppliers to San Francisco Bay Coffee since 2012, providing Honduran coffee varieties IHCAFE-90 and Parainema, as well as the more traditional Catuaí. Coffee grown on Finca El Trapiche is 100% shade-grown, with all of the coffee plants sown under a canopy of hardwoods, nitrogen-fixing species and tropical fruit trees. The beans produce a sweet, creamy coffee with citric acidity, featuring flavors of honey and caramel and notes of brown spice, almonds and pear.
Before selling to San Francisco Bay Coffee, Finca El Trapiche was not profitable. “Our relationship with San Francisco Bay Coffee has taught us to produce higher quality coffee.
Thanks to the company, we have also received a fair and sustainable price for our coffee for the last ten years,” states Vina. This support has given her the financial stability to continue producing coffee as well as pay off the remaining loans she has taken out over the years to keep the farm and family going.
Vina describes two primary challenges she currently faces as a coffee farmer – climate change and the scarcity of labor. “Often during harvest, we can’t find people to pick our beans, and some of our harvest falls off the trees and is lost. In order to make it easier to attract and maintain workers for farm management and picking, we reinvest profits from sales to create better conditions for workers on the farm. This year we are planning to build some housing to allow workers to stay overnight if they come from farther away. We also try to give workers and pickers good food to eat and coffee with homemade sweet breads in the afternoon.” Vina and family also plan to continue investing in the management of their parcel in order to produce a better quality of coffee with each passing year.
Left: Maria learning about moisture meters. Right: Maria's daughter Lousiana in the solar dryers.
In addition to managing Finca El Trapiche, Vina currently serves as President of Empresa de Servicios Multiples Oro Verde Limitada (ESMOVEL), a community-based coffee cooperative also located in Monte de la Virgen, Lempira. Her leadership has created an opportunity for 32 members of the co-op to also sell their coffee to San Francisco Bay Coffee, which has allowed them to produce quality coffee at a profit, maintain their small farms and make a living.
Vina’s commitment to her community is exceptional, as she has also been a coordinator of six local rural banks, a sponsor of Peace Corps volunteers, and an organizing member of ENSEMOL, a community-based business to produce, prepare and sell local honey. San Francisco Bay Coffee delights in supporting farmers like Vina who strive to improve their communities and the lives of others.