Jose Hernan Salazar
FINCA LA GUACA STORY
In the south of the department of Huila, in Colombia, we arrive to the important agricultural hub of Pitalito. It is a place where many people from Huila, Cauca and Putumayo, come to seek better opportunities and where coffee plays a key role as it is one of the highest producers of coffee in Colombia. Here, we meet Jose Herman Salazar at his farm La Guaca with his wife Marina Elina Ansasoy, daughter Blanca Salazar and son Johan. Jose Herman was born in Nariño but looking for a better future he first moved to Putumayo where he stayed working for a while. Afterwards, he moved to Huila where a friend had invited to work at his coffee farm. Working there and learning about coffee, it sparked the passion in him to keep growing in coffee and eventually, seeing a farm he liked on the area of Bruselas nearby Pitalito and 15 days later he came back to negotiate and bought it. It has been his home since 2001 and a place where he started to plant coffee, with the farm initially having Caturra. Now a days, he doesn’t have that variety but has planted Pink Bourbon representing roughly 30% of his total trees, Castillo with about 10% and his famous Bourbon Aji representing around 60% of his trees. This variety came to be, after planting some seeds of Caturra he had bought of which a couple of trees stood out looking different and better than the others. He decided to take cherries from those trees to create a nursery. Eventually, he took a sample to Caravela, and it cupped well and with the quality analyst noticing it had a different and unique profile. This sparked the idea on Jose Herman of starting to separate this new variety and creating a nursery to have more trees. Interestingly, that was about the time where he started to switch his focus to specialty coffee; around 2015.
The farm is a family venture where each member plays a key role. Jose Herman oversees the whole operation and cherry picking while his daughter, Blanca helps with the management of the farm and keeping the records and Marina Elina helps with the processing and drying. For him, this way of working as a family has enabled the management of the farm to be more efficient and it has bonded them. Jose is in the process of teaching his daughter everything about the farm and coffee, so that eventually she becomes the person in charge of the farm and carries on the legacy for years to come. This would allow for the Bourbon Aji variety to be produced for many years and continue being a staple of the family and farm.