February 26, 2008 – Ferns, Strawberries and Coffee

The first stop today was at a fern farm.  It is one of the largest fern farms in the world.  The ferns are background for flower bouquets – the stuff that’s left weeks after the roses die!

The farm has a lab that has done extensive research on fern diseases and they do some top-notch research here.

The fern farm covers acres of land covered in black shade cloth.

The shade cloth is now 72% sun block.  It was recently 66% sun block.  According to the farm operators, the intensity of the sun has increased over the past few years requiring thicker shade cloth.  There is not an explanation.

Inside the packing plant, the ferns come sorted by size in the field and come in for trimming, vacuum packing, and packing.

Here’s the machine that vacuum packs the ferns.  The ferns are put into a bag and the table comes down, pushing out the air and sealing the edge, like a giant seal-a-meal.  The ferns are then put into boxes and into refrigeration.  These ferns were headed to Europe for Easter arrangements. They ship out about two shipping containers a day.  For this enterprise and others shipping to Europe, the GAP standards aim for pest and disease control with minimum hazard to workers, neighbors, consumers, and the environment. The standards require extensive record-keeping for compliance and they have frequent unannounced inspections.

Up high in a strawberry field in a beautiful setting.

Here an entomologist gazes deep into a strawberry leaf.

The covers over the berries have a simple plastic over and under adjacent wires.

During the day, the plastic can be moved up or to the sides.

We had a 20 minute walk to the fields that was not passable by bus. It was a very beautiful walk through the countryside.

The last stop was at a coffee plantation where we received a tour a bit too cheesy for most of our tastes.  I can’t remember the guide’s name, let’s call him “Fernando.”  He had a booming voice and an aura of an afternoon Spanish soap opera leading man, invoking all the romance and care of the coffee bean!

Here’s coffee out in the field.

This is an old coffee mill that is part of the tour with some coffee out for drying.

A few days later we went to a “real” coffee mill that was adjacent to the sugar cane mill.  This is where the trucks back up to unload the coffee.  Notice the high-tech abacus counter above the chute.  One of the running jokes during the trip occurred at nearly every loading dock.  Early in the trip, an employee was explaining in Spanish to us and talked a relatively long time.  The interpreter simply said, “The trucks unload here” in explanation of a long-winded explanation.

Coffee goes through many processes to remove the hull around the bean.

The coffee spends a fair amount of time soaking and fermenting in these big holding tanks.

After the beans are dried, they are sorted on this shaker doo-hickey.

Finally, the beans are bagged and ready to be sent to the roaster.  Have you seen a bigger smile on Linda’s face yet on this trip?

one year ago…”Storm Day 4″

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