By Michelle Fish
It was about this time last year, in a wholly different world, that Bob and I brought a group from BIGGBY COFFEE to visit the Ferrey family at the El Recreo Coffee Estate in Jinotega, Nicaragua. It was the beginning of the coffee harvest. We were there to see what that looked like first-hand, and to finalize the details of our farm direct partnership.
It was a great trip full of deep connection, lots of learning, and big belly laughs. It felt like we were with family, the way that being with good people doing good in the world can feel.
Our partnership helps them accelerate the work they are already doing. By eliminating the middle-man and paying a fair, humanly sustainable price for their delicious coffee, they have the confidence to know that they can financially sustain their investments in their community.
They have already built a school for the farm kids, and a clinic, and vastly improved living quarters for the workers, and so many other ambitious projects. And there is more to come. We had a chance to tour the proposed site of a school for girls they wanted to build in the nearby town of Pueblo Neuvo.
From L-R, Matt Corbeill, a BIGGBY COFFEE Area Representative and Franchisee in Muskegon, MI; Richard Schaafsma of Paramount Coffee; Bob Fish, BIGGBY COFFEE Co-CEO; Michelle Fish; and Heather Zink and Michael Kotia from the BIGGBY COFFEE home office. (Not pictured, our friend Kim Zahnow, the renowned photographer, doubtless behind the camera for this shot.)
We left that trip feeling grateful and full of excitement for what was to come. We knew that in a few short months, 30% of the beans sold in a bag of BIGGBY BEST coffee would be from El Recreo. That would come to more than 200,000 pounds of coffee a year. We were dreaming big dreams, and watching them come true.
And then the world went sideways.
We have been in regular communication with the Ferrey family since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter where you are in the world, keeping yourself, your workers and your workers’ families safe is a challenge. It is particularly so in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with very little health care infrastructure. But as we have reported before, Carlos and Leanna Ferrey were able to secure enough PPE and institute protocols that have, to date, kept everyone healthy.
In the last month, though, the challenges of COVID-19 have been dramatically exacerbated by the arrival of two monster Category 4 hurricanes, within two weeks of each other. Both left an epic trail of devastation in their wake.
Although there was some damage on the farm, like the tree that fell in the picture above, thankfully everyone came through both storms safely. They were largely spared from the devastating flooding and landslides. And the coffee crop, which was ripening at the time the storms hit, has made it through.
Yesterday, Carlos and Leanna’s daughter, Miriam Morales, texted me some of the best news I’ve seen in a while. It’s harvest time at El Recreo. And the crop looks wonderful. And everybody is safe and healthy. The pictures below were taken at the farm yesterday morning. Although the workers aren’t wearing a mask in these pictures, having been on the farm I can tell you that they are socially distant and (obviously) working outside. It’s so good to see that they have, quite literally, come through the storm.