Producer Profile: Santa Anita

Written by Cafe Campesino on Aug 4, 2009 in NEWSLETTER, Producer Profile |

Santa Anita

Popularly called “Santa Anita” or “Maya Civil”, La Asociacion Civil Maya de Productores of Santa Anita is an organic coffee and banana producer cooperative located on Guatemala’s Pacific slope between Quetzaltenango and Coatepeque at an altitude of approximately 4,000 feet. The association at Santa Anita is made up of 32 families of ex-combatants from the Guatemalan Revolutionary Unity or URNG.

With the signing of the Peace Accords, the association was able to purchase an abandoned plantation in February of 1998. Working collectively, the members have recovered the land’s production capacity. Approximately 65% of the 130-acre holding is in coffee and banana production – the remaining acres are either too steep for any type of cultivation or have been left purposely in a natural state to conserve the existing ecology.

The cooperative’s values reflect the URNG’s 36 year-long struggle to create a society based upon mutual respect and democracy. Now they are leading by example. Santa Anita has a “no-kill” environmental policy, which mandates that no indigenous animals within its confines can be killed. Additionally, their board of directors has to be composed of at least 50% women at all times. Free education and healthcare are provided to all of the community’s residents.

Projects in development at Santa Anita include an organic gardening initiative, the sale of their coffee into the local market through Cafe Conciencia, and an ecotourism hosting program, which enables visitors to learn how coffee can be grown in harmony with the natural environment.

During our most recent visit to Santa Anita as part of the CRS CAFE Livelihoods delegation, we saw first-hand the real progress that our friends at Sta Anita are making with the financial and technical support provided by the program, including:

1. The contracting of a seasoned technical advisor and grassroots organizer who is living and working in and with the community for the next three years.

2.  Teaching members of the community how to perform a fascinating new grafting process that splices the more resistant root structure of a robusta coffee plant to the higher quality upper plant structure of bourbon coffee plants.

3.  Construction of a new nursery which now houses 30,000 of these new plants.

4.  Establishment of bocashi production at the community with the goal of producing 250,000 pounds of the material in the upcoming year. (Bocashi, from the Japanese bokashi, is a highly effective natural fertilizer.  To learn more visit:

5.  The purchase and planting of 30,000 1-year old coffee plants throughout the finca.

6.  The purchase of a new depulper for their wet mill.

7.  Ongoing training of the community’s members in the areas of quality control, cultivation techniques and practices, and business management.

Coupled with the hard work of the Tufts crew (see next story), Santa Anita is clearly on track to restore their coffee operation and have it up and running at its true potential within three years.  In the meantime, we’re sticking with them and are bringing in whatever coffee they are able to provide.

Kudos to our friends at Santa Anita… we’re inspired by your stamina and commitment.

We’ll keep you posted about developments in the community.

Thousands of new coffee plants are being prepared for planting.
These plants will begin to bear coffee cherries in about 3 years.

Tufts University

A group of students from Tufts University (Tripp’s alma mater) have taken an energetic and inspirational approach to supporting our producer partner in Santa Anita, Guatemala. BUILD (Building Understanding through International Learning and Development) is a student-run sustainable development initiative of the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts.

Most recently, BUILD spent four weeks this summer in Santa Anita finishing setup of a computer center (complete with 6 donated computers and a printer). The setup also included two weeks of basic computer skill classes for community members.

See what else the group has been up to. Here are some highlights from their trip report:

* Along with FUNDAP (a Guatemalan NGO), the group funded 20,000 new coffee plants and 20,000 pounds of fertilizer

* Worked with families to dig holes for these new plants

* Used GPS to map the trails on the farm as well as recorded info about local flora and fauna. This data will be used to publish field guides and maps for visitors to the community via the ecotourism hosting program.

* Working on plans for a conference to include members of the Santa Anita Community, representatives from Cooperative Coffees, as well as development-based NGOs from the Boston, MA, area.

Kathryn Taylor, Mike Niconchuk, Chloe Rousseau, Tripp, Will Merrow, Jeff Prevost. Kneeling: Katy Simon, Sasha deBeausset

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