Sorry all for the lapse in posts. When I’m not hanging from silks, I’m often working on other projects, one of which has constituted a significant life change recently… in the form of moving to Guatemala.
My husband Devon and I have been preparing to go back to Guatemala to shoot a documentary… and it takes A LOT of preparation, from writing grant proposals to planning travel logistics for our crew, to gathering and testing extra videography equipment. But we can now say that the pre-production phase of making our documentary is over. We are now in Guatemala, and we have entered our production phase.
So what’s this documentary about, and what inspired it?
Last November, we flew to Guatemala with a couple backpacks and no real plan other than getting to know some of the coffee farmers (campesinos) in a little town called Yepocapa. Over the next month, we were struck by the dedication we saw in the campesinos, who invited us to trek with them the miles uphill through volcanic soil and vibrant jungle to their farms. We saw on those farms not a simple business, but a love and passion for craft that drove campesinos to ensure their coffee cherries were harvested at just the right time and in just the right way. One campesino joked that his plants were his “second wife,” and it was a common occurrence to hear a deep voice ring out in soothing songs to nurture the coffee as it grows.
This was a wonderful, encouraging experience, but as we got to know the campesinos, we started to realize that this beautiful relationship between campesinos and coffee is dying. One day, we hiked with our friend, Papa Leon, to his terreno (their word for a small farm). The hike was about seven kilometers (a bit over four miles) uphill, and passed through an abandoned plot of land. The abandoned land was overgrown, with 30 year old coffee plants towering, neglected and ungroomed, over the pathway.
When we asked about the abandoned land, our friends told us that an elderly campesino passed away, and his children and grandchildren didn’t want to farm coffee anymore. Looking around at our campesino friends, we found that many of them were aging with no heir to pass the torch to.
As coffee farming becomes less and less profitable, and at the same time Guatemala’s economy grows in technology and globalization, many are seeking other means of providing for their families. Just as many farmers in the US found that they could just as easily move to the city and make a living there than continue the family tradition, so Guatemalans face the same choice. The result is a shortage of agriculture and an entire generation wondering who will carry the torch.
There are many ways to tackle an agricultural shortage. In the United States, we solved this problem with scale, machinery, GMO based plants, and government intervention; luxuries that rural farmers in Guatemala don’t have. So we started asking ourselves, could we make a film that actually makes an impact? After all, what’s the point of pouring your heart and soul (along with your crew’s time) into a project unless you make a difference in the storyteller’s life? Over the last six months, we’ve talked with coffee importers, roasters, shop owners, and partnered with World Coffee Research as we started to formulate a plan to tell a story of quality over quantity and give hope to young farm owners.
So we’ve returned to tell the story of how direct trade at the supplier level inspires higher quality coffees, but also increases farmer incomes to a sustainable level directly based on their dedication to their craft. Intertwined with this concept, we will draw on our connections from our last visit to highlight how the younger generation is coping with a changing culture and why they are walking away from coffee farming.
If this sounds interesting to you, please take a look at our film website: Siglofilm.com. We’ll be posting updates along the journey!