Velasquez Family Coffee is grown by several members of our family in Honduras. We are currently getting coffee from four different farmers: Guillermo's father Maximo, his brother Abilio, his brother Sabel, and his brother-law-Alonzo. (You'll recognize some of their names in the names of our coffee roasts.)
Maximo's French Roast, our darkest coffee, is named after Guillermo's father, Maximo Velasquez. Maximo has been growing coffee for over 50 years in the Comayagua mountains of Honduras. He first learned to grow coffee from his father-in-law Coronado Rodriguez. Now in his late-80's Maximo is slowing down a bit, but he can still swing a machete with the best of them.
Natalia's Vienna Roast, our medium roast coffee, is named after Guillermo's mom, Natalia Rodriguez. Natalia's father Coronado was the owner of the village general store, one of the first in the area to grow coffee and was known as a natural healer. Natalia carries on some of his healing knowledge and typically has a tea or a poultice for just about any ailment. Now in her mid-80's she much prefers life on the farm where she loves taking care of her chickens and her flower garden.
Maximo and Natalia are well respected leaders in the rural Rio Negro community where they live. Both are great conversationalists and love to meet new people. Over the years they have contributed a lot to the community, donating land for the community church, elementary school, and soccer field.
Abilio Velasquez, Guillermo's older brother, is a farmer, ecologist and father of 3 children (2 boys and a girl). He and his wife Bertilia grow coffee just up the road from Maximo and Natalia. Abilio is a passionate advocate for sustainable farming. He is responsible for encouraging many coffee farmers in the community to use more sustainable methods. He worked for several years as a park ranger for the national forest agency of Honduras. He also worked for many years with Conservation Corp, leading groups of Honduran youth on conservation camps. In addition to learning about the cloud forest ecosystem of the farm, these young campers have built hiking trails, planted trees, learned about sustainable coffee farming, and completed other conversation projects in the community. Bertilia is one of two teachers in the small community elementary school. Through Abilio and Bertilia's leadership, children in the community learn from an early age the importance of protecting the forest. Visitors to the farm can stay in the small eco-casita (cabin) that they have built and learn about the many varieties of plants and animals in the area through a guided tour on the hiking trails.
Sabel Maximiliano Velasquez, Guillermo's oldest brother, is also a coffee farmer as a well as the director of the Comayagua branch of the Coffee Producers Association (AGROCAFE). He grows coffee both in Rio Negro and in another community outside Siquatapeque that is know for its high quality coffee because of its high altitude. He and his wife Daysi have three daughters and live in the city of Comayagua where Daysi is an elementary school teacher. Sabel has been a consistent advocate for the Rio Negro community and other neighboring rural communities, often finding funding for road, bridge and water projects.
Alma's Full City Roast, our lightest roast coffee, is named after Guillermo's sister, Alma Sagrario Velasquez, who is an economics professor at the University of Comayagua. Her husband Alonzo Contreras grows excellent coffee at his farm near Las Crucitas, a mountain community about 30 minutes from Rio Negro. Alma and Alonzo and their daughter live in Comayagua.
Memo's Breakfast Blend is named after Guillermo himself. (Memo is a common nickname for Guillermo). In addition to selling his family's coffee here in St. Paul, Guillermo works at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Agronomy doing research on barley. Guillermo is the youngest of Maximo and Natalia's 8 children. Growing up in Honduras, he used to work on the coffee farm, picking coffee, planting new coffee plants, and cutting weeds with a machete. Before the road to the farm was built, Memo and his brothers would take the coffee to town to sell by leading up to 15 mules loaded with coffee bags down narrow mountain paths, sometimes in heavy rain. Cathy Velasquez Eberhart, Guillermo's wife and partner in selling coffee, previously worked for a sustainable agriculture organization called Land Stewardship Project, whose work with local farmers helped inspire Velasquez Family Coffee.