Field Notes: Peru Churupampa

Feb 14, 2020

Last September, Shauna and Katy from our green coffee team traveled to Peru to meet with our partners at Finca Timbayacu, the Tocto family. We purchase coffee from the Toctos both as a single origin and as a component of our organic blends. This is their dispatch from that trip.

The son of coffee producers, Eber Tocto, never imagined he would end up back on his family's farm, but life brought him there nonetheless - and we are all lucky for it. A talented cupper, leader, and a steward of the land, today he is well-known in the coffee industry in Peru. In Peru’s nascent specialty industry, Eber was among the first generation of cuppers to become Q Grader certified in the country. He's worked in quality control for a dry mill, an importing company, and a producer cooperative, before founding Finca Churupampa, where he now serves as the director of quality.

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Finca Churupampa is the name of the Tocto family farm, which sits on the steep slopes below Chirinos - a small town in Cajamarca perched on the summit of a mountain as if it were dropped gently from the sky. In 2011, Eber and his brothers began encouraging their father to make updates to the farm in an effort to produce specialty coffee. They planted a handful of new varieties and focused on organic and ecologically sustainable production.

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Their first harvest was in 2014, of which Stumptown bought 20 bags. The next year, the Toctos incorporated 14 more producers to their model, still under the name Finca Churupampa. The next year, the group was 46 strong. Today the group comprises 150 members. Stumptown now purchases several containers, both for blends and for our Finca Churupampa single origin.

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The original Finca Churupampa serves as the center of the organization. Eber uses his farm as a model to show growers what is possible with different harvest and post-harvest processing techniques. He has experimented with drying set-ups to find a system that is both effective and economical. He grows traditional varieties like Caturra, Bourbon and Typica and builds plant strength by producing organic fertilizers and focusing on soil health.

Finca Churupampa has been producing their own organic compost fertilizer for several years. In 2017, Stumptown provided seed money for their original compost project, designed and led by Eber, a good example of how we work with origin partners: the initiative is their idea, they lead it, we co-fund it. Co-funding typically means we provide cash and they provide in-kind contributions of labor and materials.

Eber drew experience and inspiration from a similar project he’d seen at a neighboring cooperative. The compost plant he constructed on Finca Churupampa now generates an abundance of its own organic fertilizer. He recently invested in a pelletizer to make the fertilizer easier to bag up, transport and apply so he can sell this pelletized compost fertilizer to neighboring organic farmers who don’t produce their own.

With funding from Stumptown in 2018, the compost project on Finca Churupampa was extended to 8 other small farms that contribute to the Churupampa lots. Using Eber’s technology, producers built the compost plants by hand on their farms. They can now produce their own nutrient-rich, organic compost to enhance soil fertility on their farms.

Organic compost fertilizer is particularly important in this part of Peru because the soils in the region have been degraded by decades of deforestation and farming. Lack of soil fertility limits coffee yields and can make plants vulnerable to disease and pests. Chemical fertilizers are prohibited by organic requirements. So this locally made, nutrient-rich, organic compost fertilizer enriches soil and nourishes coffee trees for healthy, productive farms. All ingredients are sourced from the region (except bird guano, from the Peruvian coast) and are 100% organic. Buying the ingredients and producing the compost locally contributes to building the local organic industry.

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Eber is also passionate about the farm being a source of food for family consumption. The Toctos manage an abundant vegetable garden and care for dozens of chickens which provide them with eggs and meat. The chicken droppings are collected and mixed into the compost, which ultimately nourishes the vegetable garden, where cabbage is harvested for chicken feed.

Through these and other practices, Finca Churupampa leads the region in quality, care for the environment, and leadership in the community. We think it shows in the cup.