Graciano Cruz is something of an enigma. A scientist, a coffee producer, a party animal, a visionary, an ecologist. It’s impossible to succinctly describe him - there really aren’t enough words.
He’s a wild man – and we think he’s awesome!
(the man, the myth, the legend; Graciano Cruz)
Before Graciano was a coffee producer, he worked in biological pesticides for 17 years. Biological pesticides, or biopesticides, are essentially non-toxic and use naturally occurring substances – like bacteria, yeasts, and fungi – rather than synthetic chemicals, to control pests. They’re less harmful to the environment and can be used in smaller quantities, meaning they’re often cheaper than conventional pesticides.
When Panama was first affected by the Coffee Borer Beetle, Graciano developed the Panamanian Borer Beetle Action Plan to combat the spread – his plan is still used today.
In addition to his two farms in Panama, Graciano also operates farms in El Salvador, and works on projects in Ethiopia, Peru, Taiwan, and Brazil.
Both Los Lajones and Emporio sit at 1,600 – 2,100 masl, and are partially located within a National Park. The lower parts of the farms are planted with more hardy and resilient varieties, such as Caturra and Catuai, under the shade of native Inga trees. Trekking further up the mountain side is where Graciano starts to get really excited – the higher elevations of his farms are planted with Geisha, shaded with bamboo.
The Geisha seeds planted at Los Lajones and Emporio originally came from the Peterson family and Wilford Lamastus, at Hacienda La Esmeralda and Elida Estate respectively – meaning Graciano’s Geisha comes from some of the best in the world.
Since purchasing Los Lajones, Graciano has let mother nature return it to its original state. Once a dairy farm, with neatly kept pastures, Los Lajones is now wild – the tropical forests have taken back the land, creating an environment in which the Geisha variety thrives. Proud Mary Coffee founder, Nolan Hirte, likes to say that Geisha is a wild plant, from the wild forests of Ethiopia. It doesn’t like to be planted in nice neat rows. It needs to be wild, amongst the wild forests – and at Los Lajones, it’s certainly wild.
(Proud Mary Coffee Green Buyer, James Fairbrass, and Graciano Cruz)
As a leading example of environmentally conscious agriculture, Graciano processes all of his coffees from both Los Lajones and Emporio using either honey or natural methods. This reduces the water usage during processing to zero. Graciano has also begun experimenting with an atmospheric water generator – a way of distilling moisture in the air into fresh, clean, and drinkable water – to provide farm workers with easy access to drinking water on the farms. The hope is to reduce the need for workers to pack their water supply up to the farms every day, and eliminate the plastic waste that’s associated.