Farm and Family Background
Finca Rio Cofre was purchased by Axel’s father, a Norwegian immigrant to Colombia in 1965. It laid dormant for some time after years of conventional farming, as a family weekend getaway from Cali. Not so long ago, Axel, an agronomical engineer and avid outdoorsman, saw the potential of a sustainably-run coffee farm to create a positive impact in the community which has long been plagued by poverty, armed insurgency, and the drug trade. Coffee is one of the few crops that can be grown in a way that protects native flora and fauna, and also generates income that creates jobs.
Organic cultivation of specialty-grade coffee is extremely labor-intensive and is only profitable when the quality is outstanding. Finca Rio Cofre has four full-time employees, unheard-of for a farm of it’s size. They do things few others bother to do, such as sort parchment by hand in order to send us the highest quality, cleanest product possible. The district of El Cofre is home to a division of the Nasa indigenous tribe who also have a great appreciation for the land and strive to protect it’s natual state. In many cases driven off their land by organized crime and insurgency, there is a great need for valuable employment in rural Cauca department where Finca Rio Cofre strives to set an example for fair treatment of workers as an agent of social development.
While arabica coffee is traditionally grown under hardwood shade, most coffee land in Colombia was clear-cut starting in the 1970s in the name of “technification” and “modernization” of coffee cultuvation in order to get more out of the same land. Though some still refuse to wake up, we now know that this was a misguided practice that has had devestating environmental and social consequences. It can take 10-15 years to grow shade trees, so most farmers don’t bother. Axel, however, understands the importance of shade and biodiversity. He and the team have planted a wide variety of native hardwoods, but while they mature, and to recuperate soil composition, they have Tephrosia, a nitrogen fixing shrub that can provide shade for young coffee in a matter of months.