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Harvest

The end of the year closes in… You must get ready! As you verify the coffee plantations you see the fruits turning from dull green into bright red as the harvest approaches.

It started about eight months ago, when the branches of the coffee bushes bloomed with fragrant white flowers that appeared four times this year. That was a good sign! Your father taught you that if a coffee plants blooms less than three times in a given year, harvest will be low. Four to five blooms represent a bountiful harvest.

Nothing you do can increase your yield after that, but if you neglect the farm, a crop reduction may occur easily. You cultivate, fertilize and care for the plants in the old fashion, trying to do the activities in the best moment for the plants and considering the weather and the availability of farm workers.

Now it is time for you to make sure that all that is needed to harvest the fruits is ready. Baskets, coffee bags, ropes, metal hooks, horns, vehicle… the list of items is long and you must make sure you have enough to spare on all of it. The most important and delicate issue is the negotiation with the harvesters. They usually are a group of organized people called a “Cuadrilla” that comes from other parts of the country and specialize in collecting the beans…. under close supervision of your foremen or “caporales”. They ask for price per pound of fruit harvested plus lodging, food, transportation… so you get to make complex calculations to assure that you will not end up paying excessively for this essential activity.

Harvesting is complex for you must wait for the fruits to reach the maximum ripeness before harvesting. The fruits comes from the blooms that occurred several weeks apart so the fruits ripe unequally and you must select only the good ones and leave the rest to ripe. This needs a strong eye to hand coordination in an endless series of repeating events. There are 8,800 fruits per kilo of harvested fruit and you know that the “Cuadrillas” can pick up to 70 kilos of fruit per person per day…

You harvest for three to four months per year and this is a happy time in the farms: the big groups of harvesters, the merry attitude they have, the music from the small radios all add to the sense of happiness and satisfaction of a good year. Your yearly efforts where put to the test and you succeed in having a good crop, all the people have every single right to be happy and you too. You, like them, worked hard all year and now you can dream of having some profit. You are grateful to the people that helped you all year and so you make them a festivity called “El Acabo” (The Ending) when the last fruits are harvested to thank them for their hard work and hope to convince them to come back next year when the cycle will start again…