Yesterday we had a meeting with the pickers at Finca Tamana to listen to their experience so far after 3 days of using the new picking techniques. Although they had gotten a lot better and the cherry selection was great, there was still some pickers who were not careful with separating the over mature cherries. Elias had also noticed that a lot of the pickers did not clean the trees completely from ripe cherries as they were worried about loosing their volume. We had to tell them that if they are more careful with separation during picking, they will spend less time sorting cherries before delivery hence get more time to pick. The pickers seemed to agree and from what I had seen that afternoon, there were already a lot of pickers who had figured this out already as they had literally no defect cherries among the ripe ones.
Althoug most pickers were picking more or less the same amount as the average from the last 2 weeks, they addressed that they would be able to pick a lot more if they did not need to be so careful and separating cherries. They had calculated that on a good day they would make more money with the new system but on a day like yesterday they could have earned more with a lower price per arroba (12,5 kg of coffee cherry) and picking more randomly than with our higher price with the new picking standard.
After a long discussion they proposed that they got an additional 300 pesos per arroba meaning Elias will be paying them 3800 pesos per arroba instead of 2500 which is the standard in the area.
Elias agreed to the new payment, but also said that he will be even more strict with the quality as this is what he is paying for. Most of the pickers seemed ok with that.
I finished the meeting by showing the pickers the difference in parchment quality from the new system vs. the old. I also told them that we had achieved more in 4 days at Finca Tamana than I have done in 4 years on other farms around the world. I talked about the importance of them working as a team, and to illustrate, I gave them a new football (they play soccer every sunday) and also assigned Elias as the Manager, Edilson as the Coach and one of the oldest, most loyal and social pickers as the captain of the team. (Picture below)
We also talked about how important it is to communicate with each other and that if they had any issues they should talk to Elias directly, or talk to their new captain if they felt uncomfortable going to Elias.
Everyone seemed to be satisfied after the meeting, and they told me that when I come back in november, they will still be there waiting to play some soccer with me.
I will write more about processing and drying in the next posts. Yesterday was a long day of work but we accomplished a lot. We finished a couple of drying beds, made big improvements to the old solar dryer, and washed the second batch of coffee. We even got two visitors, a technician and a lady, from Coocentral, the co-operative that buy and sell Elias’ coffee. They were blown away by the quality of the work and kept asking why we bother doing this. I think they will understand when they see the prices Elias will get for the coffee as well as the quality. I also managed to get them on film when they see the reception tank full of ripe cherries. A pretty fun experience. I don’t understand a lot of Spanish, but they kept saying the words “Excellente!” I guess that is a good sign.