We work directly with a number of farmers who practice traditional agriculture in isolated regions of Peru. Our goal is to provide artisanal producers and consumers in the US with a source of high quality goods produced under a system that promotes fair wages. Without this direct link to the end consumer, family farmers in these remote valleys often struggle to prosper despite the natural bounty of their lands.
This mutually beneficial exchange between local, small scale farmer and US artisanal producer necessitates a presence on the ground to establish trust within the community and instill confidence among buyers. We have formed partnerships with many skilled farmers who produce a range of intensely flavorful raw products. Their time, effort, and expertise is devoted to tending their land. In the past, they have simply sold the goods they harvest to middlemen who aggregate production, dilute quality, and sell further along the supply chain. By developing relationships on both ends of the spectrum, from farmers harvesting and drying coffee and cacao beans to small scale roasters, we help facilitate a direct link that improves efficiency and benefits all parties involved.
I explain the process and importance of using water channels to separate beans by density to a group of visiting farmers. The lighter beans will be carried by the water leaving the denser beans behind to be processed separately and reserved for specialty quality.
Lin Mael places Project Pumamarca's handmade truffles in their display case at a local cafe in Pisac, Peru.
Interviweing partner farmer Carlotta about the history of her farm and the farming practices and processing techniques she employs.
Lin Mael and Campesino Mateo work together to produce handmade chocolate truffles for Project Pumamarca.
Driect From Farm - Transparant Trade
In 2014 Campesino Mateo started "Project Pumamarca" (the "mark", or paw-print of the puma) with Peruvian partner Lin Mael to locally distribute the spices, grains and beans from his family's farms. Instead of solely vending raw coffee and cacao at a low price in the local marketplace, we further process our foods with traditional methods crafting handmade truffles from cacao, honey and other ingredients. Pumamarca is now selling its truffles in restaurants, hotels, and stores in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We are also involved in setting up distribution in Peru of other finished products. Roasting cacao beans in clay pots over a wood fire and dehydrating fruits to preserve a bounteous harvest are two of our practices.
A fairly compensated organic farmer is likely to continue using traditional practices and reinvest in improvements such as greenhouses and raised drying beds to enhance efficiency and drying. Many farmers are interested in selling their lands and moving to the city in search of more economic opportunity. By helping to create and promote both local and international markets for raw goods and artisan foods, we help ensure that more land remains in the hands of families who will honor traditional practices.
The Direct Link
You know it when you taste it. It originates from uniquely favorable local conditions and can be maximized through proper farming practices, harvesting, and processing of raw materials that enable the natural flavors to fully express themselves. We help improve quality through simple innovations and education. In our view one of the keys is incentivizing the farmer to emphasize quality over quantity and speed in all their practices.
When we first arrived at some of these growing regions, most farms did not follow best practices in harvesting or post-harvest processing to optimize flavor potential. Given our access to research and experience from a wide range of agricultural communities, we were able to make immediate improvements on the farms. This information exchange applying best practices in the rural communities of Peru helps ensure a higher quality product as well as improved conditions for farmers.
Cacao beans benefit from a fermentation of between 3-7 days, a process which adds depth to their flavor profile and helps reduce some potentially overpowering bitter flavors. Similarly, coffee should be harvested multiple times throughout the season to ensure farmers only pick ripe cherries. The coffee fruit should also be processed soon after harvest to prevent off-flavors from developing. Farmers who sell to middlemen are less apt to expend time and energy improving their product if they are just going to be paid a flat rate regardless of quality; therefore many farmers simply ferment their cacao beans for one night before drying, pick both ripe and unripe coffee cherries, and wait longer to process their coffee cherries. By partnering with the local farmers, educating and exchanging information, we can be certain that the foods we import are handled in ways which accentuate their flavor profile while improving the quality of life of the farmers with whom we work.
Starting Local Projects
Lin Mael and Campesino Mateo view the traditional varietes of corn to assess pest damage and determine optimal harvest time.
Campesino Mateo works with Peruvian partner Dwight Aguilar on the coffee harvest.
Left:Talking to a group of visiting farmers about the global coffee market and how to improve income through specialty coffee production.
Above: A selective harvest is the most important step in improving quality.