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Mexico

Sargento Vazquez

2023
with notes of
  • Raspberry
  • Baked Apple
  • Toffee
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Sargento Vazquez
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Sargento Vazquez is a Mexican coffee farmer from the Oaxacan municipality of Santa María la Asunción. His farm, Finca Llano de Agua, is located close to the road to Huautla de Jiménez, a town that became somewhat famous outside of Mexico as the home of María Sabina, a Mazatec wise woman and healer who was celebrated by the 1960’s counter-culture for her traditional knowledge of psilocybin mushrooms.

As is common throughout Oaxaca, Sargento Vazquez produces coffee on a very small scale, with a total of only .5 hectares (~ 1.2 acres) of land under cultivation. While his farm is not located at a particularly high elevation, his typica trees benefit from a location that is cool and largely shaded. In contrast to many other small coffee farms that we have visited that are planted and maintained to maximize productivity, Sargento’s coffee grows almost wild in a semi-forested environment. Given the small scale of his plot, as well as Sargento’s preference for letting his trees grow largely as they wish with minimal pruning, his entire annual production rarely exceeds a single 69 kg. bag of exportable green coffee.

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Huautla de Jiménez, Mexico
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Oaxaca
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On Passenger’s first visit to Finca Llano de Agua, in March, 2023, we got to the farm bright and early at 7a.m. but Sargento was nowhere to be found. After knocking on his door and walking around the property for a few minutes, we were about to give up and depart when he emerged from the dense thicket of coffee trees, grinning and carrying a sack of freshly harvested cherries that he had started picking three hours earlier! It was a privilege to speak with Sargento that morning as he gave us a tour of the roadside market that he operates out of his home, selling local produce, snacks, and drinks to neighbors and passersby. As is true with many small farmers that we speak with around the world, Sargento faces a significant challenge generating enough income from the exportable coffee he produces to cover his costs of production. The specific challenge in this case is not that Sargento does not receive an excellent price for his coffee; the primary obstacle is that his yields are so small, such that (at essentially any price) his total revenues from coffee will always be limited.

While shrewd farmers like Sargento pursue other revenue-generating avenues (such as the roadside market) to supplement coffee income, it is completely understandable that few members of this community’s younger generation see the risks and uncertainties of coffee production as an appealing future, leading many of them to move to bigger towns and cities to seek work in other sectors. For this and other reasons, the future of coffee production in many sub-regions of Oaxaca is, to put it bluntly, a deeply uncertain one. Given this uncertain future, we have even more reason to treasure this beautiful typica from Señor Vazquez, a proud, indefatigable coffee farmer of the Mazateca