MEET OUR FARMERS
Our Meet Our Farmers series provides a glimpse into the history, legacy and dedication of the farming families whom we partner with. When you purchase San Francisco Bay Coffee, you are joining our efforts to improve the lives of our farmers and those in their communities around the world.
March 1, 2021
Finca El Zapote, Guatemala
David Garrido, owner of Finca El Zapote located in the mountainous Palencia region of Guatemala.
The mountainous Palencia region of Guatemala has been home to some of the finest-quality coffee cultivation for generations. One of the area’s family-owned farms that supplies premium beans to San Francisco Bay Coffee has been in existence for well over a century and is currently owned and managed by coffee farmer David Garrido. David’s grandfather, Manuel Garrido, was the original owner and one of the first visionary producers who began planting coffee in the Palencia region back in the late 1800s. Finca El Zapote, named for an exceptionally sweet Guatemalan fruit, was Manuel’s first farm.
David Garrido was essentially born and raised at Finca El Zapote, bringing a rich knowledge to his current role. He began working with his father and grandfather at the farm at a very young age and has stayed involved with the coffee business ever since. David recalls working the land with other family members as a boy, enjoying the time they spent together in the fields while learning the basics of coffee growing and production. However, David is now the sole member of his family tending to their coffee plantations. His three daughters are involved by helping him sell roasted coffee at a hardware store that the family owns in town.
Over the years, Finca El Zapote has incorporated additional terrain, and David has also acquired a second farm named Finca El Amatillo. Both farms are located at high altitudes in the volcanic Palencia hills within a dense, tropical forest where tree coverage, mineral-rich soils and six months of heavy rainfall followed by six months of very dry conditions support the growth of specialty coffees. The hot, sunny days and cold nights with cold and dry northern winds make this a very unique microclimate that yields deliciously sweet and well-balanced coffees, with chocolate and molasses, tropical fruit and brown sugar tastes. David proudly produces five coffee varieties for San Francisco Bay Coffee, including Bourbon, Catuai, San Ramon, Pacamara and Sarchimor. He is partial to shade-grown coffee farms because they are similar to natural forests in which he can find and enjoy a variety of birds, small animals, flowers and other types of plants.
This time of year, Guatemalan coffee farms are in harvest season. David says, “Harvest season is indeed the happier season because there are a lot of people working at the farm.” David has six regular workers who help him year-round, but during harvest, he brings in 20 more employees from the nearby town. David shares, “My employees make me proud. They are real heroes who give their best in the field, no matter if the sun is too hot or the rainfall is too heavy. They are always making the effort to produce the highest quality coffee out there.” David has been praised for his robust and especially good-looking plantations, and he credits using very traditional farming and production methods. Changing climate conditions, however, including stronger winds, heavier rainfall, a drier dry season and increased plant disease, have caused David to begin to adapt his growing techniques to better prepare his crops for these extreme events.
David is one of the key leaders in Cooperativa Tomastepeq, which San Francisco Bay Coffee has partnered with since 2017. This co-op works with more than 50 small and midsize coffee farmers from the Palencia area. David has been particularly instrumental in improving their centralized coffee processing mill to achieve better-quality output and in reaching more international markets. While these smaller growers have a very artisanal approach to processing their coffees, they have been successful in reaching specialty markets like Europe, Asia and the United States.
Working with San Francisco Bay Coffee was the first time the co-op exported directly to a buyer, having previously only sold coffee locally. Now they are able to sell five times more coffee annually and are expecting to continue to grow in volume. “It has been a blessing since we started working with San Francisco Bay Coffee some years ago. Because we know that they will pay a fair price for our coffee, we are able to keep investing the whole year in order to have a good harvest and a profitable coffee business,” David says. “Thanks to this relationship and the growth we have had, we are improving our wet mill conditions each year, and we have been able to pay more to our employees. In the long term, we know this will impact our entire community.”
Being able to increase employee wages is now more important than ever. David explains that people in his village are beginning to migrate away, looking for a better life, so it is getting harder to secure people interested in working in the fields. “The only way to secure good workers for the coffee farms is by paying them more than what they will get in the city,” he says. “Costs for labor and supplies continue to go up each year, and the coffee market has shrunk in terms of price, so margins are very tight, even if you have a good commercial relationship like we have with San Francisco Bay Coffee. It is a shame to see other producers losing money and, in some cases, losing their farms.”
David’s plans for the immediate future are to increase his local roasted coffee sales as well as boost production for San Francisco Bay Coffee. For farmers like David Garrido, coffee is a part of their heritage. David’s commitment to improving the quality of his coffee so that he can in turn improve the overall quality of his community honors his heritage along with the values and mission shared by San Francisco Bay Coffee.