We have finally realised our dream of planting coffee on our farm. A great goal achieved to start 2017. But like most things in life and on the farm getting started is the easy part. Growing and keeping things going is where the hard work that lets your reap rewards in the years to come. Here is a summary of our experience from our lead coffee plantation hand Rasa Dover. Rasa is an incredibly passionate planter and grower of all things.
December 7 and 8 2016
Greg went and did his shopping do and purchased our first coffee plants:
90-K7 Mega Tubes from Daley’s in Kyogle
50-K7 and 50 Catuai from Zendfelds in Newrybar
We immediately got them under shade and watered. The next day I potted up the Zendfelds as they were in very tiny pots and the same day Greg, as he does, said “Get them into the ground”.
We also acquired a hole digger so the worker bees here got out there and in true mass production style drilled and planted! By January 10 we had most of them in the ground, with a handful of dynamic lifter around the outer edge of each. None of them were root bound so we figured they all had a good survival rate. 32 were so wilted that we kept them in the shade house.
There was of course no pre-prep and so they were planted surrounded by raging couch grass! We quickly went out for truckloads of cardboard and made use of a big pile of semi rotted mulch, perfect for mulching! Of course some cows got out! They bit off the tops of a few plants! Two are dead and the remainder seemed to have shot out side shoots. Temperatures over the next days were very high and got to the near 40’s through most of Jan and into early February! A shocking start for small seedlings of about 30 cm. Many got instantly crisped when the 40 degrees days hit a few in a row. We were out there in the heat days at a time, getting weeds from around the plants, getting more cardboard around each plant and watering every few days. 190 small coffee plants. We set up a “bucket” water gauage to easily see if it had rained overnight.
15 Pigeon pea plants went in for the first of the shade plants and some more are being grown.
The 32 in the shade house are doing best out of them all, although the ones planted out are not all that far behind given the weather conditions we had in late January!
We are due to give them their 6 weekly fertilizer with some dolomite pretty soon. The rows have been brush cut between the plants two or three times already to keep the grass down and we are covering between plants and rows with more cardboard and hay as it comes to hand! The original cardboard and much next to each plant is doing a good job of keeping them moist. The couch grass is creeping up around the plants but a lot of it can be pulled out when watering which is done by hand, one plant at a time.
Our coffee plantation is looking pretty good out there! We are now researching “shade” trees to plant between the rows and are currently considering Black Bean Trees, which are very fast growing and can be easily cut back.
Planning is in place for what to do with our first harvest. It is our hope that we will be able to produce a single origin for Top Shed to be sold on Espresso Unplugged. Why are there so few coffee plantations in Australia? With just over 100 trees in the ground our total cost stands at approximately $50 per tree. That cost is likely to triple before we ever pick our first crop. Then we will incur more significant costs for the harvest, processing and packaging. If anyone every says coffee is expensive…come and visit us to get a taste of what goes into your morning cup of coffee.