Farm: Finca Patagonia
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried at Beneficio El Carmen
Altitude: 1,250 metres above sea level
Owner: Oscar & Christian Schaps
Town / City: Ataco
Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepeq Mountain Range
Finca Patagonia - El Salvador
Finca Patagonia has been owned by the Salinas Family since the late 1800s and was one of El Salvador’s premier farms for many years. The farm was divided into three parts in the early 1980s when the original owners’ three children took over as the next generation, and the larger part of the farm was kept by the eldest son, Julio Salinas. The farm is made up of 14 hectares which look towards the Pacific Ocean and has the potential to produce around 500 bags of coffee annually.
In March of 2013, Oscar and Christian Schaps decided to buy Finca Patagonia from their uncle Julio Salinas after learning that he had put it up for sale. The Schaps brothers are fourth generation coffee producers in Guatemala and owners of the well-known farms Finca Los Caballitos and Finca Santa Paula, and at the time they had been considering investing in El Salvador in order to pursue new challenges and expand their portfolio of coffees. Patagonia was a must for the Schaps brothers since this farm was their grandfather’s, and they could not bear to see it go out of the family. Since then, the brothers have been working this farm and hope to make a Patagonia of the past into a Specialty Coffee farm of the near future, just like their farms in Guatemala.
The farm is currently planted under 70% Bourbon trees and around 30% of Pacas and is 100% shade grown, using primarily Inga trees to provide protection from sun and heat. Due to the strong winds that characterize this area of the Ilotepec region, which lies high within the Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range, the Schaps brothers have found that many old Bourbon trees have struggled to survive. In these areas, they have been hard at work renovating and planting Pacas variety trees, which are shorter and more resistant to the wind.
At Finca Patagonia, traditional practices – such as the pruning of shade trees and coffee trees and good soil management – are utilised; however, the Schaps brothers have also implemented cutting edge coffee practices, just as they do in their Guatemalan farms. This perfect marriage of old and new helps ensure optimal quality and productivity. Through intensive soil and leaf analysis, a new program of Pre- and Post-flowering foliar fertilizers and soil fertilizer has been implemented. Instead of one shade pruning a year, two smaller prunings are undertaken – one after production to insure the best flowering and plant growth and the second right before the picking season to ensure a well-balanced ripening of the cherries. Fungus control for diseases such as coffee leaf rust has been one of the biggest issues in this region, and the brothers have brought in new products to make sure that this disease is controlled at the right time and in the most efficient way. The Schaps Brothers believe that chemical products – used in the right way and applied correctly and in the right moment – can positively impact the coffee plantations and have no harm to nature or its surroundings. New microorganisms and algae are also applied in the plantations to counter-balance any negative effects of chemical application to the soil and to allow for the better growth of the roots and plant systems. They believe that a balance of organic and conventional practices make for the best cup of coffee.
The farm is too small to have its own wet mill so it contracts its milling to local mills, usually the well-known Beneficio El Carmen which is located nearby. Fernando Alfaro, the owner of the mill and El Carmen Estate, works with the Schaps brothers to process their coffee to their specifications so as to assure its quality and consistency. Currently the farm produces wet process and natural coffees, though there may be potential for more experimentation as production increases. In the near future, the brothers plan to work with Fernando to build a greenhouse drier with African beds, which they use on their two farms in Guatemala to a great result.