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2005/2006 Harvest Season

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The results are in.  We harvested just over 47,000 pounds of coffee cherry this year.  Our first day of picking was on September 6th and the last was on February 9th.  There were 45 days when pickers were working on the farm spread over five major rounds of picking.  The heaviest day was January 10th with 3374 pounds of cherry picked by 10 different pickers.  The most picked by a single picker in a single day was 491.5 pounds, again on January 10th.  That was a busy day and the coffee was just right, not too green, not too ripe.  Actually, the most important factor was that all the pickers showed up early and worked all day long.  The fastest picker often doesn't pick the most coffee because he prefers to sleep in late.

Trees When picked, the coffee cherry is put into large burlap sacks which can weigh over 100 pounds each when full.  Each bag is numbered so I can tell who picked it.  The record for any given number was picker #1 (I'm not sure if that number was earned or if it's just a coincidence) with 845.5 pounds in a single day.  Picker #1 is actually Mario, his wife Rosaria and their kids.  In a race, Mario and Rosaria aren't the fastest but when it comes to routine picking, they are both excellent pickers and consistently fast.  They're at a slight disadvantage because they can't start picking until after their kids go to school and they have to take a break in the afternoon to pick up their kids from school.  The time they miss taking their kids to and from school is made up for when the kids help pick for an hour or so after school.  Their kids can already pick way more coffee than I can.

Peacock Pickers are paid by the pound.  This year they are getting paid between 45 and 50 cents per pound.  The picking season lasts for about six months.  A little quick math shows that if they picked at their top rate, six days a week for the entire season, Mario and Rosaria could clear over $100,000 in six months.  Kind of makes you think about getting a job as a coffee picker doesn't it?  Of course it's unreasonable to expect the peak rate all season long.  Other farms are much more difficult to pick than ours because they're steeper, have weaker trees and less coffee.  Even on an "easy" farm, picking coffee is still a difficult, tedious job.  Picking coffee is definitely a skill that not everybody can master.  On my best day I only managed to pick 30 pounds.  That's a lot less than the 300-500 pounds that most pickers can pick per day.

The 47,000 pounds we harvested this year is the weight in freshly picked cherry, not roasted coffee.  About 80% of that weight is lost in the pulping process which removes the juicy outer pulp leaving behind the bean which eventually becomes coffee.  The bean still has to be dried, hulled and roasted which all loose still more weight.  Out of the 47,000 pounds of  cherry, it's reasonable to expect maybe seven or eight thousand pounds of roasted coffee.

Stirring This year the local mill I sold most of our coffee cherry to was paying between $1.20 and $1.25 per pound.  47,000 * 1.25 = $58750.  That number is meaningless.  That's what our income would have been if we picked all the coffee ourselves, sold it all to the local mill and had no other expenses, none of which are true.  At 30 pounds a day I could never pick all the coffee myself so I had to pay for pickers.  Other expenses include pruning, fertilizing, hulling, roasting, equipment purchase, equipment maintenance, etc.  Our living expenses (groceries, utilities, mortgage, etc.) aren't exactly farm expenses but since farming is our major source of income our living expenses certainly need to be considered.

Selling all our coffee to the local mill won't generate enough money to pay all our expenses.  We plan to eventually process and sell all our own coffee.  We pulped and dried a couple thousand pounds of coffee cherry ourselves this year.  We have to complete the barn and increase our web sales before we can manage all of our coffee.  Maybe next year.  In the mean time, feel free to order all the coffee you want.

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