Lenca Farms Coffee Direct Line to Farms Fuels Coffee Importer

He has drawn on that tradition to craft a new business model: a rich blend of family tradition and enterprising spirit.

Garcia the owner and founder of Lenca Farms Coffee, which is based in in Straban Township, Adams County, and imports beans from his native Honduras.

But while many farms rely on middlemen to move their coffee beans into the U.S., Lenca Farms delivers coffee directly to roasters, hence its tagline: From our farms, to your door.

Garcia ships beans into the U.S. in June after the end of harvest season in Honduras, which runs from January through March. He stores them in an FDA-approved warehouse in northern New Jersey, near New York City, where they wait until Garcia calls in orders from his clients.

Garcia has also made it a point to enact sustainable, environment-friendly practices in the growing of his coffee. Lenca Farms coffee, he said, is shade-grown, which virtually eliminates the need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers. In addition, the organization has joined forces with the Juniata Valley Audubon Society to protect the habitats of both native and migratory birds in Honduras.

Garcia said he usually can make his way back to Honduras three or four times a year, but that much of his time is spent promoting and selling his wares in the States.

I miss the standard farm often, because its where I grew up, he said. But I enjoy the opportunity to talk with customers to roasters directly. And any questions they have about how to grow coffee, how to process the coffee, Im able to answer.

It is a model that matches the mood of todays consumers, one expert said.

If you pay attention to the food and beverage industry, its no secret people are really focused on locally sourced and if not locally sourced, locally crafted products, said Brian Gregg, who chairs the food and beverage practice group for McNees Wallace &Nurick LLC, a Harrisburg-based law firm. So, youre seeing the rise of small, independent coffeehouses and coffee roasters and coffee processors who are sourcing products from other parts of the world.

Were not exactly known for growing coffee in Pennsylvania, butits the processing and packaging part that we are doing, Gregg said. Consumers are interested in those kinds of products because they still have a local connection, even if the beans arent grown here.

Garcia grew up in the municipality of Marcala in southwestern Honduras, near the border with El Salvador. The son of third-generation coffee farmers Garcias great-grandfather, Felipe, had begun growing and harvesting coffee in 1915 he planned to eventually become the fourth.

Shortly after Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras in 199, Garcia traveled to the U.S., hoping to find work and help his family recover their damaged farmland. He and his wife married in 2003 and had a son at which point Garcia decided to stay in the U.S., learn English and figure out a way to import Honduran coffee directly into the U.S. Having watched his family back home lose out to middlemen who bought and exported the coffee they had grown, he knew there had to be a better way.

Garcia wound up talking to several coffee importers, but only one Sustainable Harvest in Portland, Ore. was interested in working with him. He teamed up with Sustainable Harvest in 2013 to bring in his first coffee shipment.

It turned out to be a wise move for both parties and the beginning of a fruitful partnership. Over the years, Garcias business has grown, with numerous clients across the East Coast including roasters in Maryland, New Jersey, West Virginia and North Carolina buying and roasting his imported coffee beans.

Among Garcias many regular customers is Jeff Meyer, owner of Abednego Coffee Roasters in Chambersburg. He and Garcia first got in touch just as Garcia was starting to get his business off the ground.

We met in Chambersburg at a coffee shop and he kind of explained his vision for his business, Meyer recalled. And I said sure, I could help him by roasting some of his coffee. When we first started, he would come over and Id roast his coffee for him and now he roasts a lot of my coffee for me.

Meyer described Garcia as perfectly suited for this line of work: It helps us as a business where were striving to connect coffee growers with coffee drinkersAnd I think he does a really great job of communicating to customers about growing coffee and whats all involved.

According to Garcia, one of the major challenges of running a field-to-cup coffee business is simply the knowledge that he is competing directly against much large coffee distributors.

I feel like a little fish! Garcia said.

Still, Garcia and his business continue to thrive to the point where he plans to launch a Lenca Farms website later this year. The website will help Garcias organization target both commercial and home roasters.

We’ve worked really well together, said Meyer. He’s a real entrepreneur and a go-getter, and I think he’s going to be really successful.

CREDIT: Michael Heimbaugh

 

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