San José Ocaña is 175 hectares, small for a Guatemalan estate. Guillermo’s father used to farm on a lot more land, but when Guillermo took over in 2013, he reduced the farm size and started focusing on regenerative farming and specialty processing.
He planted a lot of shade trees and lots of small experimental parcels of different varietals – we’re eagerly awaiting first cuppings! He set about transforming the way coffee was picked and processed.
He pays pickers more than any of his neighbours to select only the ripest cherries and his water recycling system is hyper efficient, using several tanks to separate solids from clean water, re-using water in the wet mill, capturing all the coffee mucilage post- washing and applying this to the pasture.
Guillermo only uses organic fertilisers, a significant proportion of which he creates himself with one of the most productive and intense worm-farm and organic compost systems we’ve seen. There are many cows and sheep that graze the plantation and whose sole purpose is to produce manure for the worm farm.
Guillermo fertilizes pasture with the tiny amount of waste water that leaves his wet mill; sheep horses and cows eat the straw; their resulting business is fed to the worms along with coffee pulp and transformed into biologically enriched organic fertilizer that, of course, feeds the coffee plants and the farm’s veggie patch.
His farm is heavily shaded, mostly with native pine. In fact he has a large agro-forestry project going to protect native species. He is an agronomist by trade and has worked as an engineer for chemical fertilizer companies. Obviously, he has a legitimately deep understanding of plant nutrition (like, next level beyond our heads) and also knows that if you farm smart, you don’t need to apply chemical fertilisers. He uses only organic fertilizers to complement his compost.
He is similarly employing many biological controls of farm pests and diseases Guillermo has a very ingenious fermentation and water recycling system that does more than produce zero wastewater.
Using various tanks, pumps and gravity, Guillermo cleverly captures the fresh water used to wash the parchment, allows the dirty mucilage solids to float to the top, and then pumps the clean water from below back to the fermentation tank to kick start fermentation of freshly depulped cherries day’s pickings.
Fermentation at this cold high altitude lasts around 36 hours – it would be dangerously longer than this if it weren’t for Guillermo capturing bacteria and yeasts in the washing process. Fermented parchment is soaked for 24 hours before being taken to patio where it is gently shade dried over about two weeks.