When a local coffee grower decides to go organic he earns the nickname “El Loco,” at least that’s what happened to Don Cune. After years of blasting his crops with pesticides he became concerned about the number of deaths and cancer-related ailments in the area. Each day he’d come home from the crops with itchy skin and eyes.
That was well over a decade ago and at the time farmers were using twice the amount of pesticides recommended on the back of the canister because more must be better. But then a German pesticide company began holding a series of workshops to help farmers understand how much pesticides they needed and Don thought he could apply those techniques to abandon pesticides completely.
He’s the first to admit that becoming an organic farmer is a difficult thing to do. Without any examples around him it was a series of trial and error. But he explains it was a spiritual exercise for him as he learned that he needed to listen to the earth and maintain it’s balance, the goal was no longer to eradicate pests but to simply keep them from his coffee crops.
Visiting Don Cune’s farm it’s far from what you’d imagine a industrial farm to be, citrus trees and other plants are intertwined with coffee plants to deter pests. He explains that you cannot have only one plant taking nutrients from the soil as it becomes unbalanced.
He monitors the pest population by using a series of modified tricks the Germans taught him, a greased post that insects will stick to indicates if there is an infestation simple hanging planters with sweet juices attract the fruit flies and keep them away from the berries.
Unlike other farmers that undertake the arduous process of becoming certified organic, Don doesn’t make much more money from it. While he typically grows 6000 pounds of beans a year, His wholesaler doesn’t offer organic beans and therefore pays Don the regular price of $1.50 a pound for his beans to be mixed with pesticide-laden beans. The real profit is in selling direct as the beans can command $6.00 a pound but he needs to find a distributor as his current method is selling at local markets and backpackers who take the tour or buy from the hostel.
But like all trail blazers, Don is adamant about succeeding, teaching himself along the way and looking for ways to improve. With a grant from Spain, they were able to secure more efficient machinery and he’s convinced eight other farmers to only process organic beans.
It’s really inspiring to visit the farm as you meet a man who wants change and was so determined to make life better for his family that he found a way to do it himself.
You can meet Don Cune by booking through Lost and Found Jungle Hostel who are helping him reach tourists. Read TripAdvisor Reviews here.