Farm life has been taking over Instagram. There's plenty of successful accounts depicting the beauty and peace of life in the countryside. Many of these accounts use the platform to promote their own products or even use social media accounts as another cow to be milked as they are equally if not more profitable.
Industrial coffee plantations are factory looking buildings often disrupting the flora surrounding them (except for this industrial beauty I found in Brazil), but the small farms we work with are family homes filled with charm and comfort.
From architecture to pottery, clay is a staple of coffee farms. Sometimes it is kept bare while some others it is decorated with unique intrinsic designs. This is a world-wide coffee farm staple. Many have roofs made out of the same clay used for their pottery. The natural tone of the clay and the roughness of the texture is a reminder of how close farmers are to their land.
Limit the Electronics
This one may be a no-brainer, but it is worth mentioning because it is taken to the extreme. The kitchen is operated under gas fire and there’s little room for fancy appliances. Even electric mixers are rare. In the long haul, this shapes the lifestyle of the farm, as it determines so much about the food that is eaten and the incredible resourcefulness of farmers. It also leads to a less distracted world, as farmers would rarely binge watch a show and TV time is limited to news and soccer games. Limiting electronics eventually leads to a more present life and higher engagement with the people and overall nature around us.
Coffee farms are built with the outside in mind. The design respects the valleys and mountains that surround it and guarantees a good view from every window. What makes the architectural design stand out even more is the fact that instead of indoor hallways, these homes have long porches surrounding the home that work as hallways. They are wide enough so that when it rains, there is still room to move around the porch without getting wet. This is crucial to the charm of coffee farms. Breeze and sunlight set the tone for life at the farms.
Coffee farms are rarely a one family home. Multiple generations of the same family and extended relatives often share the home and see the building as a headquarter of the family-at-large. Relatives and people from the local communities may see the home as their own even if they don’t live there, but still recognize with warmth this place as the center point for their livelihood. The home becomes a place of industry and an office of commerce for the local economy, which is based largely on the coffee the farm produces.
Natural tones and materials are a constant theme throughout the coffee farms architecture, but splashes of color add vibrancy to the homes. Trimmed details and colored rails for the windows and porch add a unique touch to the farms’ charm. The colors are usually not complicated, either primary or secondary colors, most often the color goes from the paint bucket to the house without much concern over specific tones and shades. Clearly a reminder of the simplicity of the farms.
While animals are not strictly required in order to grow and produce coffee, their presence at coffee farms is a constant. Given the remote locations, a chicken coop is very often kept at the farms for food, as well as cows for dairy products, and dogs are kept for protection. They serve as guard dogs and protect the farms for intruders. It is special to think that the dogs know the people in the farm and know to bark if they recognize someone who should not be there or at the hours they should not. Now that is a tight community. Horses and donkeys are also kept throughout the farm for transportation. Occasionally they serve to carry bags of coffee beans and help farmers get from one place to another. Cars can’t reach most of the plantation grounds given the uneven terrain and small paths in between coffee bushes.
There is an ongoing partnership among farms so they may share edible goods. Most coffee farms around the coffee belt grow coffee on equal conditions, but their side products vary and they trade them. One farm in specific may have better milk production and they may sell it or exchange it for potatoes grown in the neighboring town. There is a profit to it, but it is smaller as the focus of production remains in the coffee.
Coffee farms are truly unique places and their charm is difficult to recreate, but there are certain things that can be imitated even in urban areas. Thinking of the details that make these farms so special brings to light the sweetness and charm of these homes. It also reminds us that these homes are economic powerhouses as 80% of the coffee industry comes from these farms. Who would’ve thought that charm, family, and industrial success could come from the same remote home?