Supporting Her Family With Shade-Grown Coffee

Artemia Rojas Castillo

We met Artemia Rojas Castillo during one of our trips to Peru to tour coffee farms. And her welcome was warm. I feel happy and content that you have visited me. To know you as well. How we live, how we suffer, and how we progress forward. How happy, so happy, that you have visited, she said as she gave us a tour of her land in Cajones, a tree-covered parcel at the foot of a mountain.

Artemia began growing coffee with her husband more than two decades ago, building their farm step by step, nurturing their coffee plants in the shade of the rain forest. They worked hard together so the crop could sustain them and their five children.

When her husband passed away, Artemia continued on with coffee farming. Because of the higher price she could get for the superior shade-grown crop, she was able to support her family. For us, it is a very important plant, she said. It brings us everything—the belief, education. We have all seen this. To take care of our children and educate them. It is the most important plant that we have.

She sees coffee not only as a way to support her family. It is also vital to her community. Well, for all of the community, for them it is life. It is the plant that does everything for us. It’s food, it’s happiness—all of it. It is life.

Artemia has a clear appreciation for the role the rain forest trees play in her coffee farm—shielding the plants from the harsh summer sun, providing nutrients and allowing the coffee to mature slowly for a richer flavor. She also understands the need to maintain the rain forest from a larger ecological standpoint as well. She spoke of the importance of conserving the trees and how her land is rich with birds that she enjoys hearing while she farms.

Two of Artemia’s children remain with her today, working beside her in the coffee fields. They will carry on the tradition of growing coffee under the canopy of the rain forest.