An unforgettable sunrise set against a volcanic landscape provided the perfect beginning to our stay at Finca San Jerónimo Miramar during our January 2016 Guatemalan origin trip.
by Karen Lickteig
Giorgio and Gina Bressani, the fourth-generation owner-operators of Finca San Jerónimo Miramar, are early risers. They have been ever since childhood, when their father would wake them before the sun to start their days. If you were still in bed at 6am, they said, you were lazy. Giorgio wakes up around four, and begins with a quick and rejuvenating dip in the chilly waters of the family’s spring-fed swimming pool.
At dinner on our first evening at their farm, when Giorgio suggested a dawn hike to our group of already-wearied travelers, we were hesitant. We were fully aware of the jam-packed schedule we had the next day of plant grafting, seeing the coffee tree nursery and processing mill, and coffee cupping. But there’s nothing like a once-in-a-lifetime volcanic sunrise in Guatemala, so of course we obliged. At 5:15am, still wiping the sleep from our eyes, our group piled into Giorgio’s truck to the head of a trail, and then soon jumped back out again for a short hike up to a clearing on the slopes of Volcán de Atitlán.
From that clearing, we could clearly see volcanoes Fuego and Acatenango in the distance. Just a day before, we had been on the other side of them near the city of Antigua, picking coffee from trees on the slopes of another volcano - Volcán de Agua. Once we arrived at our vista point, it was still dark and chilly. The mosquitoes were hungry, and we were swatting, as we waited for the sun’s light to begin to rise. Over the course of twenty minutes, we experienced the magical beauty of a Guatemalan sunrise set against the outlines of those two volcanoes, with the lush green expanse of Finca San Jerónimo and the tiny rooftops of nearby villages laid out in the foreground. The farm’s bamboo grove snaked through the landscape in the right side of our view. True to its name, Volcán de Fuego began to emit a steady stream of smoke visible from our distant landing, silhouetted against the changing watercolored yellow-orange hues of the rising sun and and blues of the lightening sky.
Witnessing the magic of this Guatemalan sunrise was unforgettable, and the perfect beginning to our first full day at the Bressanis’ farm. This farm and its owners stand out for their high attention to detail, focus on experimentation and innovation, and true commitment to improving their community and the lives of their workers. Early on in our trip, it was apparent that the Bressanis are absolutely tireless workers, with their early-rising habits being just one indication. When asked why they work so hard, when it seems like the farm operation had been dialed in to run smoothly, perhaps without such great effort on their part, Giorgio responded, “We are slaves to the people.” They work hard knowing that hundreds of people rely on the success of their farm for their livelihoods.
For many years, coffee production was not a profitable part of the business. The family used their dairy operation to subsidize the coffee side, knowing that their community needed those valuable jobs provided by the more labor-intensive coffee production. As you walk around the farm, a little village unto itself, you can tell that the workers are generally content and cared for. Children play on a well-tended playground just outside the Bressanis’ home on the farm, situated adjacent to the coffee processing mills and nearby some of the housing that is provided to workers for a nominal rental rate.
Not only do the owners of San Jerónimo have a passion for taking care of their workers, they also have a commitment to protecting the natural environment that runs as deep as the valleys and tall as the peaks on their farm. They power the entire farm using hydroelectric energy produced on site using salvaged turbines that have imported from different countries. They use natural growing methods and experiment with natural ways to most effectively prevent pests and fungus on their plants. They believe nature is best undisturbed and constantly work to achieve balance with the natural environment. A third of their land is a stunning private nature reserve, home to a variety of plant species and animals, and occasionally opened to bird watchers keen to spot some rare fowl.
The energy, passion and commitment the Bressanis have for taking care of their workers and the environment, all while running a highly successful dairy factory and coffee farm, offer an inspiring glimpse into the coffee industry in Guatemala. We are truly proud to source great coffee from these even greater people, and can't wait to see what new flavors and opportunities will come of their experimentation and increasing commitment to a high quality coffee product.