Farmer Profile: Dario Hernandez

Farm & Production Data

Farm Name: Dario Hernandez
Owner: Dario, Angelica & Tono Hernandez. A family of three (Tono is Dario’s and Angelica’s son) – each with their own plantation making up the farm as a whole
Closest town: Antigua
Department: Sacatepéquez
Altitude (masl): 1600-1800
Farm Size (ha): 17.5
Approximate number of trees planted per hectare: 3400
Soil composition: volcanic
Harvest season: January – April
Harvest peak: Mid-February – Mid-March
Approx. annual production (per 46kg bags green coffee): 300
Varieties: Bourbon & caturra

Wet process

Washing - Cherries go into reception tank and floaters are separated out, then pumped into the depulper - After being depulped by a mechanical depulper, cherries are sorted in two ways: clean and those that still have fruit o The ones with fruit go to a separate channel to undergo a second depulping - Clean cherries are moved with recycled water over to fermentation tanks o If there happen to still be cherries with fruit, they are sent to another tank where they will most likely be processed as commercial grade - Dry fermentation for 14-15 hours - Clean water then used to rinse the parchment which is then moved to a mechanical washer and finally transported to the drying patios or beds.

Three types of drying methods. Dependent on quality:

  1. Green house with raised beds • Used for small lots (e.g. Hunapu). Do some honeys and naturals • Temperature, moisture, humidity levels are monitored • There are windows that can be opened to allow for more air flow when needed
  2. Mechanical dryers used for biggest/commercial lots • Stay in the dryer for 24 hours @ below 50C • Then dried for five days on the patio
  3. Patio
    • Most volume dried here
    • 12-16 days
    • Tube test in the middle of coffee lots to figure out whether coffee is dry enough to be measured for 11% moisture content. If it sticks to the tube, it still needs drying. If it doesn’t, moisture content reading is taken.
  4. Post-drying - Parchment is packed in grain pro and rests for 30 days - At the dry mill, there are three different mechanical sorters that grade by A (biggest), B and C (smallest) o This process is repeated at least seven times to ensure even grading - Finally, the coffee is deparched and packaged.

Other Data

Other crops grown: avocado, used for family consumption
Number of people employed at farm: 8-10 family members work on the farm; an additional 12-14 pickers hired during the peak of harvest. Most of these are friends of the family. A law was recently passed in Guatemala that requires employers to register workers as employees and this provides them with government social and healthcare benefits that they didn’t previously have access to.
Pickers’ wage: 50-70 GTQ/45kg.

About the farmer & plans for the farm

The Hernandez family comes from a long lineage of coffee farmers and it’s easy to see this, walking through Dario’s plantation, which is neatly planted, pruned and seeing the health of the coffee plants. Although disease (roya and ojo de gayo) remain the family’s biggest challenges to coffee production, the family has, together with the Zelcafé team, managed to find the right inputs, use of labour (e.g. selective pruning) and tools to quickly manage outbreaks of disease before they become unmanageable. A result of their careful management is that the family can safely say that inputs are largely organic in composition. The family’s main goal for the future is to expand the size of plantations. Land is very expensive, however, so for now, good and regular management of the farm is the focus. About Bella Vista & Zelcafé


Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora (LPZZ) is the fourth generation in his family to be working in the coffee business. The Zelaya family’s first farm was Carmona, followed by Bella Vista, which where the wet, dry mill facilities, and Zelcafé staff offices were later built and are currently located.

For many years, the family’s business focus was on commercial coffee production and export but in 2000, LPZZ began developing and changing Zelcafé’s focus into specialty coffee/microlots, with the support of some early clients. Over time Zelcafé has been able to successfully transition the business into solely focusing on specialty coffee. For the Zelaya family, their coffee endeavours are not only about business; their aim is to provide a good basis for generations of their family and community to come. With this in mind, they are constantly looking for ways to provide jobs to as many families in their communities as possible, as well as supplying the best quality coffee they can to their clients.

Partnerships & Services

The family has worked with small producers in Antigua since they first started coffee farming. New relationships almost always come from introductions from families already working with the Zelaya family, ensuring close and stable partnerships. In addition to buying cherries from farms, Bella Vista also manages estate farms that owners don't want to sell but don't know how manage themselves.

The Bella Vista team take care of all the planning, execution and monitoring of the resources each farm they own or manage have: human, technical, financial, and knowledge/training. In the case of the small producers that they buy cherries from, the team not only buy cherries at a premium, they also provide technical assistance and the financing of inputs. Bella Vista is constantly looking to improve its agricultural activities to reduce chemicals to a minimum and in turn share their scientific knowledge with other farms.

Bella Vista continuously encourages its workers to get proper education and in special cases, finances education for some of them. The facility also often offers workshops on different topics. The Zelaya family farms all have C.A.F.E Practices implemented and in the coming years the family will try to implement a WaSH project at one of their biggest farms.

Other future plans include research on water treatment and the building of treatment plants and hopefully, the construction of another greenhouse.