As fourth-generation farmers, we’ve had to balance traditional insight with the demands of today’s market. And we’ve come to realise that good coffee alone is not enough.
Our farm, Sao Luiz, is in the Cerrado Mineiro region of Brazil. Miguel Veloso, my great-grandfather, was the first in our family to work on it. And Manoel Veloso dos Reis, my grandfather, founded our town’s first agricultural cooperative, as well implementing drip irrigation and working with pulped naturals – a local pioneer.
And today, we need to keep innovating. Here are four elements we believe to be key for success.
An aerial view of Sao Luiz Estate. Credit: Lucio Velloso and GRUPODVÖS
We’ve always produced quality coffee, yet only recently has that resulted in higher prices for us. In order to see this change, we needed to position ourselves in the market more strategically. And fortunately, the recent trend for specialty coffees enabled us to do so.
We created a Development Plan, Business Model, and Brand Strategy. In doing so, we defined our vision, established our purpose and outlined our values. These allowed us to act with more direction.
We also knew that we had to add more value to our product. We did so by developing our visual identity.
Understanding our brand as well as the market we sell in – this is important for any farm.
Coffee beans from Sao Luiz Estate. Credit: Lucio Velloso and GRUPODVÖS
Our region is characterized by large-scale production. And this makes technological innovation necessary if we want high-quality coffees that are also cost-efficient.
Our farm has always searched for better technology. We work on relatively flat lands, allowing us to mechanize our harvest – but this doesn’t mean we harvest every cherry at once, ripe and unripe. Our machines are designed to harvest only the maturest of cherries, which fall off the branch with less pressure.
Sorting coffee cherries by hand. Credit: Lucio Velloso and GRUPODVÖS
We use drip irrigation, cutting down on water waste while ensuring our coffee remains healthy. We perform annual quality mapping, so we know where on the farm the best coffee comes from. We have a field of experimental varietals. We invite manufacturers to test new agricultural products and machinery with us, so that we can be at the cutting edge of farming. And we have also implemented Enterprise Resource Planning software so we can monitor costs and administration.
Prioritizing innovation in this way is expensive, but it also ensures high productivity and good-quality coffee. And in the long term, it makes us financially sustainable.
Examine your farm’s operations: can technology help you cut costs? Improve quality? Identify your best coffees?
Long rows of coffee on flat land makes a mechanized harvest possible. Credit: Lucio Velloso and GRUPODVÖS
Technology is important, but so are our workers. Today, there are 28 of us on the team. Some of us even remember my grandfather. And our head, Fausto do Espírito Santo Velloso, has a close relationship with the senior staff. They include his childhood friends and his godson’s parents. On the weekends he meets them to talk, not about work, but about family events.
We consider this a unique value – one that is important for ensuring crop quality. It means everyone working on our farm is motivated. They believe in Sao Luiz and what it stands for.
But we also know that good relationships don’t happen without work. We hold workshops and training sessions. We pay attention to how our team operates. We strive to create personal value and quality of life – based on what our staff tell us they need.
Pay attention to your staff. Are they motivated? Do they need support from you?
Staff at Sao Luiz Estate. Credit: Lucio Velloso, GRUPODVÖS
It isn’t only our staff with whom relationships are important – it’s also our external partners. SEBRAE, a private non-profit, is one of our most important partners. A training and development promotion agent, it supports small businesses like us. Its Educampo project is focused on managerial and technological assistance in rural properties.
The Cerrado Mineiro Federation is another important partner. A non-profit organization made up of associations of producers and cooperatives, it works to promote the region’s coffees on a global scale. In particular, it applied for Cerrado Mineiro to have Denomination of Origin status – and was successful.
These partnerships support us. And by belonging to the Cerrado Mineiro Federation, we support other nearby producers. Look for partnerships that offer your farm the same benefits.
Clients visit Sao Luiz Estate. Credit: Lucio Velloso, GRUPODVÖS
We have inherited our farm, father to child, for four generations. And with it, we have inherited an understanding of its value. But we know that entrepreneurship, innovation, and an incessant search for quality are also important for success.
Written by Ana Cecila Velloso.
Perfect Daily Grind is not affiliated with any of the individuals or bodies mentioned in this article, and cannot directly endorse them.
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