Marysabel Caballero and Moises Herrera, two of my favorite coffee farmers. Once you meet farmers, you never think of the produce (in this case, coffee) without thinking of the people who produce it.

I’m writing this on a Saturday morning. From late spring until fall I travel to a local farmers market. Discovering farmers markets transformed my life, or at least my diet. I used to count on supermarkets for all my produce, all my food really. Then I happened upon local produce. It was like completely different food, not only in taste but texture and aroma. It even cooked differently. All I can say is I’ll never return to old habits.

Just as important as discovering local produce was connecting with the farmers who grew it. I found farmers, whom I grew up connecting with film caricatures, were apt to be profound thinkers. I’m a solid urbanite and I suspect I have a lot of misconceptions about rural life. All I know is when I engaged a farmer in discussing his farming methods, I discovered there are all kinds of variables, ones that can affect the taste and nutritional benefits, and that most farmers really try to do what’s best taste and nutritionally, unlike large scale producers. At any rate, one I developed these relationships as I realized I was as interested in learning as I was in eating the food.

I enjoy farmer's markets, as much to meet the people who grow my food as for the food itself.

I enjoy farmer’s markets, as much to meet the people who grow my food as for the food itself.

Coffee was, for years, disconnected from my fresh, local farm fascination. I suppose I simply accepted that I lived far, far away from anyplace where coffee grew and I tended to see coffees as a roaster’s product more than from its origin on a farm. Then I had a chance to visit a coffee farm. It didn’t take long to realize that a coffee farmer is like any other farmer, and they had the same challenges.

The closest urban job I’ve had to a farmer is a producer. You have to have a working knowledge of every aspect, to be able to instantly specialize on a task, but always with the big picture in mind. You can’t waste time moaning about every little change or challenge. Nature throws you obstacles constantly.

Of everything CoffeeCon has stood for, I’m proudest of fulfilling my goal of bringing coffee farmers to CoffeeCon. My wish is to have them present their life and to tell us about sustainability in their world. It’s the closest I could come to arranging a field trip with the farmers at their farm. I selected a couple who farm in Honduras, Marysabel Caballero and Moises Herrera. Her family have been farmers for many generations. Their coffees have been available from Counter Culture and Stumptown, among others. In 2004 they won a Cup of Excellence award for one of their coffees.

I conversed a bit with them before asking them to come here, but I am as eager as you to hear their story. I want to know how they view farming and what sustainability really is. What does organic mean? Also if they have children, are their children considering being farmers? So far, I have not met a farmer whose children want to follow their footsteps. I hope to develop the same relationship and feeling of trust I have with my local Illinois farmers. At this year’s CoffeeCon Chicago consumer coffee festival, please come to our Sustainability presentation and meet Marysabel and Moises.