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Marcus Carvalho and Fazenda Chapada

Marcus works on Fazenda Chapada. If you’re a loyal Pacter, you might recognise that name from our coffee menu on our website where regularly features. This small-ish farm produces some of the finest coffees in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, and Marcus is improving from harvest to harvest.

He inherited the farm from his late wife, who passed away a short while ago. After mourning his wife, he named the finest coffee plot he had after her and got busy.

Marcus is a multifaceted man, which has been true for many of the farmers we have met on our travels. Before becoming a coffee farmer, Marcus was a professional footballer of national regard. Nicknamed Pavao, or peacock, he was famous for brash displays on the pitch for his adoring fans. It also happens to be the name of the town where he was born, which is a happy coincidence!

Since his retirement from the sport, he still manages a youth team in Carmo, the nearest town to his farm, and helps give the local children a place to go and a supportive environment to develop that they couldn’t otherwise afford. That way, he can still feed his love of the beautiful game and make a difference to the youth in his community. We met them at one of their evening practices; the number and enthusiasm of his students was heartening. We were in a sea of smiling faces, despite the late hour of the game and the full school day they had come from.

Marcus has been working his way up to speciality and we’re proud to say he has achieved quality few farmers can boast of. Last year Will, our head of coffee, met Marcus and saw potential in him and his farm. After a lengthy discussion, Marcus and Will decided to reinvest the money we pay above Fair Trade (always at least 25% more) into a new piece of equipment for his farm.* With advice from an independent agronomist, we found that a cherry sorting machine would be the best investment. We financed the machine for Marcus, and left with high hopes for next year’s harvest.

The cherry sorting machine allows Marcus to ensure that his coffee drying patios all filled with more ripe cherries than over- or under- ripe ones. This means there’s a higher chance that more of the coffee will be of speciality quality. Moreover, Marcus now employs extra skilled employees to manage the machine, and he’s able to earn more income overall for the life of the machine!

We returned to Chapada in July 2015. We were nervous going there as we’d invested a lot of hope in Marcus, but our fears were completely misplaced. The coffee Marcus produced on his farm this last year was some of the best coffee we cupped on the entire trip, beating out much bigger and more developed farms hands down. Though the final quality score won’t be decided until August 2015, the initial scores are very promising.

That extra income will allow him to invest further in his farm, up-skill his team, and keep his football team’s kit up-to-date (which is pretty sweet already)!

* The cost of the machine was $7500. The difference between the price Marcus wanted and the price we would pay was +$4500. Marcus wanted to improve his coffee and his farm for the long term so we financed the remaining $3000, in exchange for that value in coffee in the next harvests.