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Interview with Jorge Rojas of El Jardin (Part I)

Part I of Community Funded Coffee's (CFC) interview with Jorge Rojas of El Jardin in Colombia. Jorge is CFC's Q1 partnering producer, and here's what he has to say about his farm, what raising coffee is like and more. All images are from Jorge and are used with permission.

Q: How big is your farm in hectares? 

A: 3.5 hectares. 

Q: Do you grow anything else? 

A: Nothing else that is sold to the market. For consumption I grow tomato, avocado, corn, beans, bananas, and some other crops.

Felipe, Jorge's son, on the Finca!

Q: How much coffee on average do you produce each year (in cherry, parchment, or green)? 

A: 11882.9lbs of green.

Q: Is coffee your main source of income?

A: Yes. (Jorge also works for the ASOPEP cooperative)

Q: What do you love most about growing coffee?

A: Experimenting with processing techniques. Every day I do experiments with different varieties. I like to do experiments with all varieties, but like experimenting with the Caturra variety the most. With Caturra I've gotten good results as though it was a different variety- like Typica, Yellow Bourbon, etc. I don't like to experiment with the Gesha variety because it transforms the true flavors of the variety too much.

 Jorge con cafecito

Q: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a coffee grower?

A: As a producer, one thinks that it’s the marketing and selling of coffee. But when you have good coffee like me, you don’t have to worry as much. The challenge that I see these days is labor. It’s getting really difficult because people work differently now. That’s something that makes you worry. If there’s no one to work, then there’s no way to move forward with coffee. I have had to pay more per kg to pick. I've been having mostly family working on my farm lately, but family members are also starting their own farms, which means they’re not going to help as much. They’re going to focus on their own farms. It’s something that is complicated. There is a labor shortage because people are moving to the cities, like the cities of Ibagué (the biggest city near me) or Neiva. 

Q: From your point of view, what do you think is most important for coffee consumers to understand about the coffee industry? What  

A: It is important to understand how coffee processing affects coffee flavor, it is the most influential factor. Drying is also very important because you can be a magician in fermentation, but if you’re not good at drying, then you lose everything. You can’t take too long or too short with drying. 

Q: Is there anything you’d like to share with the people drinking your coffee?

A: I am a cyclist! (more on this in part II)

I'm the 4th generation working with coffee- from my grandfather, my father and mother, and now me. I'm also raising my son to work the farm.

Jorge's son Felipe, helping make coffee in the chemex

Q: Do you drink your own coffee? Why or why not? If so, how do you like to prepare it? 

A: Yes of course. The only coffee that I drink is my own. When I come back home, if there’s no coffee left, maybe I'll drink other people's coffee, but I mostly carry around my own coffee-with a grinder to prepare it. I like to prepare it in a chemex and as cold brew.

Jorge with bags of his coffee
Part II to come in the coming months of Q1.
Many thanks to Michelle Stoler of Shared Source, for working with CFC to make this interview happen!