Dispatch from Huila

Michael Crowder is a supervisor at our Mercer St. store. See pictures here

Last month I traveled to Huila, a mountainous tropical department in southern Colombia, to investigate how some of the coffee beans we buy and sell are produced, processed, and exported. My plan was to focus on the municipality of La Plata in eastern Huila, where small independent farms produce exceptional coffee.

After landing in Cali, I first made my way to Neiva, Huila’s capital, a sweltering summer city. I meant to visit the Huila branch office of the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros, Colombia’s national coffee producers’ organization that has successfully created the Juán Valdez brand campaign for Colombian coffee. There I was able to procure a quick meeting with Dr. Gonzalo Chavarro Barreto, Technical Division director. He was unwilling, or unable, to provide any information on coffee production in La Plata, or suggest potential contacts there.As I walked to back to my hotel I passed through the main campus of the Universidad Surcolombiana, a public university, and noticed numerous spray painted slogans praising past and present Colombian political and social activists and radicals, including several declaring support for Colombia’s farmers.

One hour later, I boarded a sweaty bus for the two hour trip to La Plata.