Altitude (masl): 1500-1800
Farm size (ha): 675; 112.5 dedicated to coffee
Wet/dry mill: Carmona
Coffee varieties: Red and Yellow Bourbon
Owner/Manager: Maria del Socorro Ester Zelaya Aguirre
Harvest season: December – April; Peak: late-February – early March
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1200
Carmona is has been in Maria Zelaya’s family since 1910, when it was purchased by Maria’s grandfather, Luis Pedro Aguirre. Mr. Aguirre passed the farm on to Maria’s mother and now Maria is the third generation owner and manager of Carmona. From its initial green coffee yields of 200 bags (46 kg) production has increased to a high of 2700 (46 kg) and continues to grow. In addition to coffee production, the farm specializes in Holstein cattle, which international juries have classified as the best dairy cattle in Guatemala. Carmona’s cattle production benefits its coffee production in part through the fertilization of its coffee plants with the manure the Holsteins produce. While the manure is complemented with chemical fertilization, it greatly reduces the need for chemical fertilization to a minimum.
Maria’s farm has been growing coffee in conventional and old-fashioned ways with one devastating result that in 2012, it was strongly attacked by Roya (or “coffee rust” disease). It was then that Maria realized she needed to change Carmona’s agricultural management in order overcome the disease. With the help Luis Pedro and Ricardo Zelaya, Maria started working on tissue management, plant nutrition and pest/disease control. So far these efforts have resulted in bigger yields, healthier and renewed plants, and a return to the same excellent quality coffee she has been delivering to her clients year after year.
About Bella Vista & Zelcafé
Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.
For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.
Partnerships & Services
The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don’t want to sell but don’t know how manage themselves.
The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.
Sustainability & the Future
Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.
Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.