ORGULLO LATINOReading time: 4 minutes
Mildred Muñoz discusses the many roles women play, both on and off the finca, and how organic coffee farming can help drive change for them.
"Finca Santa María has helped everyone see that women can have multiple roles in our community; we can be successful land owners, entrepreneurs, workers, mothers – that is clear in what we do here," Mildred Muñoz says with pride.
Mildred is the manager of Finca Santa María, a coffee farm run entirely by women. Located in Aratoca, Colombia, the farm currently employs 25 women full-time and over three times that number during harvest time.
A Coffee Farm Run Entirely by Women
The initiative began when she and her husband noticed the high quality of coffee delivered to his family’s coffee mills by female farmers in the area.
To boost female-farmed coffee production, they decided to acquire a small patch of land and offer the farmers the opportunity to work together on a women-run coffee farm.
Mildred named the finca after the Virgin Mary. "The region where the finca is located is very dry, so people always prayed for us to get more water," she says. "But ours has a water spring, and so we decided to honor Virgin Mary by naming the coffee farm after her."
Today, they produce some of the best-quality natural, organic Tabi coffee in the world – quality that was spotted long ago by us at Mayorga Coffee.
"Mayorga was our very first customer," Mildred says. "The entire team will forever be thankful to Mayorga for believing in us. We will not forget our first customers."
Like many, Mildred's journey in the coffee industry started at a young age. Growing up, her parents owned a few acres of land where her grandfather planted coffee and she helped the family with the harvest to earn pocket money.
Years later she met her husband, Oscar, whose family owns La Pradera – a specialty coffee company that owns nine coffee farms, including Finca Santa María, as well as the wet and dry mills where Mildred first spotted the potential of female farmers.
Community Impact Through Coffee
But producing great organic coffee is not the only thing on Mildred's agenda. Many workers at the finca are mothers and most of their children attend a local school where Finca Santa María is currently running a project.
"We started working with the school to show our children what the region has to offer," Mildred explains of the current project, Pilos de Café. "Many times, it is easy to think that everything is better elsewhere but there's a lot of room for expansion and development in this industry and we are trying to show people that.
"The school acquired some land and we are teaching the kids how to plant and harvest coffee. In addition, we are also introducing them to various other roles in the industry. From engineers to tasters, there's so much room for growth in our field."
Mildred also wants to upskill the farmers. She explains that most workers are not computer literate, which limits their job prospects.
"We bought computers so that the women on the farm can either learn how to use them or, if they already know how to, have more opportunities to practice and expand their skills."
Growing Organic Coffee as a Family
Most of the women who work on the finca have started, little by little, to buy their land and Finca Santa María is trying to help them develop their small farms.
Seeing these women, who have all become close friends, grow and prosper is extremely gratifying for Mildred.
As Finca Santa María cannot afford to employ all of them year-round, they are trying to help them develop their land so that they have an income when they are not harvesting coffee at the finca.
"One big challenge that we have is trying to create full-time positions," Mildred says. "We always need more workers for the harvest but that's only a few months a year. The idea is to create some other more permanent positions so that the women have a job in the off months, too."
Mildred also explains that the women on the farm meet every few months to discuss production and future plans. During these meetings, she also shares the results of their efforts with them.
"I show them videos of the coffee packages on the shelves and people buying them. That fills them with pride,' Mildred says.
Seeing the result is also what fills her with the most pride: "I love the fact that each bag of coffee was produced by what now is a family, not just another company," she says, smiling.
"We are friends and it is nice to know that we can all share ideas and that every person plays their part. Some of us are even godmothers to others' children. If you go to the coffee fields, women are laughing and singing." A joyfulness that is part of every bag of organic coffee they produce.
Would you like to try some of Mildred's incredible organic coffee? Order some today from our online store and support her women-run farm while enjoying a delicious brew.