Luis Fernando Bernal Medina
Go to any modern coffee shop today and you’ll find more than coffee. As well as the flat whites, vanilla lattes and cold brews, there’s nearly always a huge selection of sweet and savoury foods – cookies, muffins, cakes, sandwiches, wraps and more – as well as teas, hot chocolate, juices, and smoothies. And just as cafes that are the final destination for coffee crops are diversifying, so are coffee farmers themselves. Waves of farmers like Luis Fernando Bernal Medina in Colombia – the world’s third largest coffee producer – are growing other crops alongside their coffee plants to tap new opportunities and improve their economic resilience. On Luis’ farm, for example, rows of citrus and avocado trees are now thriving too.
Winds of change
Luis is an agricultural business administrator and agro-industrial engineer. He’s managed the Córcega farm for 15 years, overseeing its shift in crop production. “Currently, we produce coffee, citrus and avocado, as well as livestock and poultry, and we’ve even turned some of our land to tourism,” he says. “Due to several external factors, the company went from focusing on coffee to other projects that have allowed us to increase profitability.”
While making a living is paramount, so too is protecting and enhancing the environment. “We have adopted a crop management system that is friendly to the ecosystem and takes into account the diverse species that contribute to biological control crop protection and the stimulation of plant growth,” says Luis.
In addition to investing in sustainable water, fauna and vegetation management, Luis has incorporated UPL’s inputs into his sustainability practices for almost three years. He tells us that with the help of solutions such as Safari, Silwet, Biozyme and Fitobolic, coupled with UPL’s “commitment and technical advice,” he’s seen significant improvements on his farm. “I’ve increased harvests in almost every month of the year, as well as the quality of fruit for export, resulting in higher margins,” explains Luis.
A win-win for all
The careful management of his farm has proven to be a winwin for both Luis and his consumers. “The coffee we produce guarantees a different experience, and we have invested significantly in our lemons to ensure that we offer the best of Colombian agriculture,” says Luis. “Thanks to the altitude, topography and management of our farm, the colours, flavours and quality of our products have high market appeal.” But more than premium coffee and fruit, Luis wants to be known as a responsible employer and community partner. “What I enjoy most about farming is producing high-quality products while improving the sustainability of our farm and ensuring the well-being and welfare of our team.”