Studying abroad is half learning in the classroom, half hands-on learning in the field. When it came time to cover the section of the course syllabus “Sustainable Enterprises in an Island Setting,” the AIFS in Galápagos Summer Session students hit the highlands of Santa Cruz Island to visit the organic coffee plantation Lava Java where we enjoyed a guided tour by farm founder and owner, María Elena Guerra.
The Lava Java organic coffee farm was founded in 2004 by María Elena (formerly of the World Wildlife Fund) and her husband, biologist Scott Henderson. Professional conservationists, they started with five acres and began removing invasive species and reforesting endemic Scalesia (giant daisy trees). After clearing away weeds, coffee plants were discovered growing underneath, planted by the land’s former owner. Now a total 30 acres, the Lava Java organic coffee farm produces over 5,000 pounds of coffee every year.
María Elena was honest about her expectations about organic farming before beginning, telling us, “I thought, how hard could it be?” and about the challenges that came later: “drought, pests and plagues, low production, low profitability.”
At Lava Java rich, Arabica-variety coffee plants grow in volcanic, mineral-rich soil shaded from harsh sun by the giant Scalesias and cooled by ocean breezes. The students observed plants in all stages of production and then viewed the roasting of beans recently harvested. María Elena described the labor intensive planting, harvest and selection process and we were mesmerized by the roaster and captivated by the smell of fresh-roasted coffee beans.
Then we tried the coffee! We enjoyed a nice break on the Lava Java terrace, drinking coffee and gazing at the Pacific Ocean below.
Interested in exploring Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands? Study abroad there this January or next Summer!
This post was contributed by Paula Messina, Resident Director of the AIFS in Gálapagos Islands program.