This is a short account of our history.
We feel that it is important (and quite enjoyable) that you know some of the events that marked the evolution and development of Vida Farm and the way, it has influenced the community of Vereda El Rosario.
Location and geographical data.
Linda Laja, or Vida Farm, is the farm where most of Vida Coffee's production takes place. It is a green and lush piece of land in Colombia. With about 67 Ha, it lies amidst the beautiful mountains of the Colombian central range (Cordillera Central), 80Km away from Medellín, the second-largest city in the country and sits just next to the road that communicates the towns of Santo Domingo and Alejandría. The main house is located at an altitude of 1656 meters above sea level while the farm goes as high as 2089 meters. The coffee lots are located at 1680, 1760 and 1800 meters respectively.
Don Bernardo, my father, the Abuelito.
There is a beautiful story, that defines who Don Bernardo Lopera Eusse (b. 1929) is as a person. In 2018, I found myself walking with him around Santo Domingo when some middle-aged man stopped us in the street. "Are you Don Bernardo?", he asked. My father answered him: "Yes, I am, please, who are you, sir?". The man smiled and with a hint of tears sparkling in his eyes said: "Don Bernardo, I am Mr. ..., I worked at your farm and I am most grateful to you. -He then turned towards me and said- "You are Juan José, I presume. You must be very proud of your father. He is remembered very fondly here because he has been the fairest and most just landowner and employer that this town has known"... He went then to recall his personal and family history in our land. I was very moved and grateful.
Don Bernardo, now 91, is a retired, very inspiring and energetic human being. He bought the first piece of the farm in 1971 and called it Linda Laja because of a beautiful flat rock, right at a protected water source in the south-west corner of the farm. He, an economist and entrepreneur (La Comarca his life long company), was very much in love with coffee and coffee culture and soon began to plant the first 10000 Caturra coffee plants of Linda Laja. It was, at that time, the biggest plantation of the region.
A couple of years later, he bought the rest of what today is Vida Farm. He planted almost 20000 more Caturra coffee plants, built a "Beneficiadero", the processing coffee factory that deals with the peeling, fermenting and drying of coffee beans. After this step, the coffee is sold to coffee factories for roasting, grinding and packing.
My father was very kin to maintain high-quality standards and took care of the process. Thanks to the coffee, the farm was sustainable from a financial point of view and gave fair living wages to more or less, 15 families of the Vereda.
Everybody was happy and thriving. At this time, my father became one of the board members of the local Coffee Farmers Association. The local chapter of the Colombian Coffee Federation would recommend farmers who wanted to grow coffee, to come and learn from us, from the way we took care of the plantation and coffee process.
It was the early 90´s. At that time, Roya and Broca appeared with tremendous drive in the Colombian coffee landscape. Caturra plantations, a Roya sensitive variety of coffee, were devastated. My father tried to plant again, different, more resistant coffee varieties but then, the first strong "El Niño", hit the Caribbean part of South America and slashed away what was left as well as the few new plants. My father was broke.
After his divorce, he had sold his share of his former company and invested everything in the farm. It was all gone. At the same time, Colombia was seized by Narco Wars and was suffering amidst cruel Guerrilla/Paramilitary conflicts that held the nation in its violent grasp. The region of Santo Domingo was not spared. Many people flew away from the land. Many farms were abandoned or sold for peanuts. My father, who was living at the farm at that time, flew also away.
He could not keep up with the expenses of the farm. He did not have the money to pay workers or to plant again. This kept him from recovering the farm after this series of events had taken such a toll. The farm remained untouched for almost 20 years. Carlos Rios and his family, former farm manager, had lost his land and he and my father met an agreement. Carlos and his family could stay at the farm at no money cost. The "rent" fees would be some monthly hours of watching over the property and minimal labour. During the rest of the month, Carlos would look for day jobs that helped him nourish and take care of his big family (10 children).
Renaissance. A new dream.
In 2012, after living in Europe for 20 years, I came back to Colombia. The social and political situation was getting better. After I settled, I began to think about the farm. Finally, in summer of 2017, I took over. I had a dream. I wanted to see the farm flourish again and make a statement: Let the farm become an icon in social and environmental responsibility and, make it sustainable in financial terms. Let it become the driving force of the social recovery of the Vereda.
My first action was to donate Carlos and his family one acre of land in the middle of the property, for him to build his home. As of today, one of his sons and his own family, are building his houses in the property. Although there was no legal obligation, it was a way of paying back for his loyalty and assure him a secure future.
In December 2017, we planted the first 2000 Castillo/Rosario coffee plants and began our project. By December 2020, we have planted around 15000 coffee trees. We have Castillo, San Bernardo, Tabi, Caturra and Geisha varieties in a Perma/Shadow culture system. During the next two years, we want to plant 15000-20000 plants more.
During this time and, as part of the conservancy plan, we have planted more than 350 trees along the rivers of the farm and we have taken actions to protect the water sources and original forests of our farm.