VIVA LA COOPERATIVA

The place was easy to find, up a steep hill.  It was beginning to rain.  We had to wait a while.  We wanted to paint.  There were new chairs.  Ali and Oscar said we couldn’t join.

We have friends who have a coffee farm in Payacuca, in the mountains south of Matagalpa.   The Castellon family farm is ten percent coffee.  The rest is food.  Both are excellent.  The coffee is of the Caturra variety.   We found the Castellon farm by looking hard.  We wanted to buy coffee directly from them, but we couldn’t.  They mixed all of their coffee with that of their cooperative, 8 de Julio.  Cooperativa 8 de Julio consisted of about 30 farms, seven organic.   We had been selling Castellon coffee, but since it turned out there was no such thing, that it was 8 de Julio coffee, we thought it would be good to buy from the cooperative.  Nope, 8 de Julio is part of a larger cooperative, Central de Cooperativas Servicios de Matagalpa de Aroma de Café or CECOSEMAC.

Hmm, cooperatives within cooperatives.  It’s not really our thing.  See, we discovered when we started travelling that many cooperatives were nothing more than a person or company who bought lots and lots of coffee from anonymous farmers.  They would then get various price-hiking certifications (covering their office, not farms) and sell their coffee for a premium.  The practice continues.  We were unable to really trace any coffee or determine who was getting the high prices for the coffee.

We also learned that we have to travel.  We have to see for ourselves what goes on.  It is fortunate, because our travels have led us to this cooperative.  The smaller cooperatives that make up CECOSEMAC consist of families with farms that are near each other.  They don’t have enough coffee to process or export.  Combined, they have enough to process, but they don’t have the money or time to try to sell their coffee in the international market.  So, they got an office and a name and now they can.  CECOSEMAC is completely made of farmers.  It’s completely run by farmers.  Oscar is the president, Ali is the vice-president.

They said we couldn’t join until we had worked a cosecha.  Cosecha is the harvest.  They said they like all of our words and phrases like “partner” “working together” “relationship” but were we going to come and work the cosecha and were we going to contribute to the cooperative?

Yes, we do contribute and we will be back for cosecha.  The new chairs were ours.  They bought them with money from our Farmer Dividend program.  We’re on our way to paint with more of that money.  We will be there for the harvest, to pick coffee, process coffee, carry bags of coffee, load trucks with coffee.  We want to join.  They are really nice people and we want to hang out with them.  We also want to buy the coffee.  We want to really be partners, members.