Coffee production: Agronomists talk about their everyday life

Understanding the work of AAA agronomist Fernando Segura, in the Central Valley of Costa Rica.


Fernando Segura checks his rearview mirror and turns the key in the ignition. Though the sun is just starting to peek over the ridges of the hillsides, Fernando knows already how the day will unfold. He is aware of the rising temperature, the moisture in the air; he knows that come the afternoon there will be rain but it will probably only last a few hours. He thinks of the roots of the trees he has just helped plant, the riverbed noisily flowing with increased capacity, and he smiles. Nature is his colleague, and working alongside coffee farmers is his passion. He puts the car into gear and heads toward the oasis that is Luis Emilio’s farm. Today will be a good day.

Nature is his colleague, and working alongside coffee farmers is his passion.

Fernando Segura is one of 400 Nespresso partnered agronomists who work day to day on coffee farms globally. Being an agronomist means he is an expert in soil management and crop production, and his location in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, where the landscapes are lush and the soil rich, make his life and his job quite engaging. His car approaches the entrance to Luis’s coffee farm and he exhales. A lot of work has been done here. Hundreds of hours studying the land, pruning, planting, finding solutions within an ecosystem rather than fighting it. It hasn’t been easy–there have been setbacks; there have been moments when he’s felt at the mercy of the land. But as a member of Nespresso’s AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program he has been equipped with knowledge and support every step of the way, which he has then in turn passed on to farmers like Luis Emilio.

Fernando (right), a AAA agronomist, has become a close friend and trusted advisor to Luis (left). They have worked together to create a farm that showcases what sustainable agriculture can look like, and are inspiring other farmers to implement similar sustainable practices.

Fernando steps outside of his car and gazes at the ribbed hillside; the sun has now fully emerged, but the clouds are looming closely behind. Today he is looking forward to taking a walk with Luis throughout the coffee farm and checking on the newly planted guava trees. He hears a door slam and looks up. There is the same smile and kind eyes he sees each time he visits. Luis is a friend, a mentee, and a partner, and his land is proof that with the implementation of the best techniques, a coffee farm can be productive, sustainable, and resistant to the effects of climate change.

They walk silently for a while, listening to the sounds of the verdant habitat. The birds flutter overhead and sing out their morning praises, the insects buzz about creating a low murmur that almost harmonises with the rustling leaves in the wind. It’s really a sight, Luis’s farm; it is a perfect example of the natural harmony that is possible between humans and nature. They approach the newly-planted trees and both kneel, knees nestling in the freshly turned soil– even the dirt is fragrant here. These trees have proven to be the key to a sustainable coffee farm; they will provide protection for the coffee plants from the wind and shade from the sun. The fallen leaves will become a natural compost, and as they grow, birds will make homes in them, and eat any insects that would otherwise harm the crop. It’s circular, sustainable and balanced.

Luis’s farm is a perfect example of the natural harmony that can exist between nature and humans. He and Fernando have successfully found a way to create a sustainable coffee farm by nurturing the natural ecosystem it sits in.

Side by side Fernando and Luis have transformed the farm. And with Luis’s farm being two times more productive than the national average, it’s difficult to imagine any room for improvement. But their day is only just beginning. Fernando is well aware that nature is ever-changing, and in order to maintain success on the farm in a sustainable way, they must nurture the natural ecosystem it sits in.

Fernando is well aware that nature is ever-changing, and in order to maintain success on the farm in a sustainable way, they must nurture the natural ecosystem it sits in.

They make their way back to the farmhouse where Luis lives with his family. The rest of the day they will identify which plants require pruning in order to keep coffee cherry yields high and trees healthy. They will then sit down and go through the payroll plan for Luis’s workers—Fernando has brought with him a business proposal to safeguard good wages which will then ensure that the investment in training is worthwhile.

Before continuing the long day, they sit on Luis’s porch overlooking the perfectly spaced rows of coffee trees hugging the hillsides; the rain is almost upon them. Luis places a hand on Fernando’s shoulder and hands him a cup of coffee. They raise their cups and take a sip; Fernando closes his eyes and savours the richness. He knows that doing is everything and he recognises that the hard work is worth it. He can taste it in his cup.

Discover more about our AAA agronomists here, including how women are changing the landscape of the workforce now, and creating equity for generations to come.

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