Growing up in Colombia, a visit to the country entails long drives around mountains filled with all sorts of smells. Everything from flower plantations to coffee plantations; let’s just say that for those napping in the car, the smell of coffee beans wakes one up as you approach the farm’s gate. Once inside, it is a whole different world. The difference between farm people and city people are evident across the globe, each with its virtues and setbacks, but my own experiences have exposed me to a school in character and virtue, in which coffee farmers have taught me not by preaching, but through example.
Humility and Gratitude
Together, these two qualities result in a strong sense of identity, which ultimately no one can duplicate. Nothing will make you go noticed more than having a clear understanding of who you are and truly loving yourself for it. Perhaps due to the lack of social media presence in the farms, and the fact that coffee farms are more often than not located in remote places, there is little room for comparing yourself with anyone but yourself. This sense of awareness makes one humble due to the honest understanding of our own strengths and faults, while also keeping us grateful for the things, people, and situations around us. It's important to note that coffee farmers are often vulnerable people. Countries around the coffee belt have been areas of intense violence and conflict in the past hundred years (if not longer), to the point in which many coffee farms have ended up being protected by private armies when the country itself cannot guarantee protection. In addition, a disproportionate amount of coffee farmers are on the verge of modern slavery and other forms of abuse. This is a reality that few (if any) face in developed countries, but it is very much present in the minds and hearts of coffee farmers. As a result, they are incredibly grateful people. Grateful for the opportunity to have a dignified job, grow a crop for which they receive recognition, practice a craft often passed down by the older generation.
It is one thing to be able to do what you love, and it is a whole other story to love what you do and the fact that you get to do it.
Remain Strong Regardless of the Conditions
Rain and heat hover the skies at coffee farms fairly often. Farmers don't take the day off because it's too hot nor too wet unless the conditions are truly dangerous. Rain won't stop them but wild thunderstorms might. They understand that their success in taking care of the coffee plants and beans, as well as the financial value of a day of harvest, all depend more on their own work ethic and ability to face the weather than the weather itself. There is no such thing as making up for a day of work, because tomorrow will bring its own fruits and sorrows. At first glance, this may simply sound like too much pressure but if you dig deeper, it becomes clear that more than pressure, it is an admirable sense of responsibility and care for one’s own craft.
Whatever chore you may have in front of you right now, is today’s work. Surely, it could be done tomorrow, someone else could do it, and perhaps you could even reconsider if it truly merits being done, but the fact remains -it is today’s work. There is value in your relationship with your work, and just like in many other subjects, how you treat it, care for it, and ultimately do it, speaks loudly. There is no doubt that the fact that the coffee beans grown by these farmers are rated among the top 3% in the world in regards to quality is correlated to the love and sense of responsibility coffee farmers have for their work.
Coffee farms are inhabited by tight communities with little chance to "do my own thing"; instead, there is a vital need to rely on each other. Of course, this doesn't mean that these families are perfect in any way, it means that their interdependence cuts away distractions and pushes everyone to value and appreciate each other generously. We can choose to play off each other's weaknesses or strengths -always pick the latter.
I once heard a farmer say “there’s no known saints here, only tons of good people.” This sentence stuck with me, because it was a humble and charitable nudge to the fact that there is goodness in people. This is a lesson that we can apply to every area of our lives. From the people we work with to our own families; being close with someone implies that we have seen them in their bad days and we have witnessed their poor decisions. The lesson here is to not get stuck in that, and move past it, so we may view and experience the person for its whole goodness.
There is great love in the way coffee farmers live their lives and approach work and family. It is a collection of habits, attitudes, and ways of thinking that without a doubt plays a pivotal role in their quality of life and overall happiness. While our lives may look different, internalizing the coffee farmer’s approach to family, adversities, and gratitude can bring fruitful growth and make out of every ordinary thing something extraordinary.