A Model of sustainable organic agriculture
The farm formerly known as Fazenda Fortaleza has been in the Barretto Family since 1850. It was still a traditional farm with 150 farm hands and conventional farm methods when Silvia Barretto inherited and along with her husband Marcos Croce began to transform the farm with their dreams. Long a steward and follower of natural and organic lifestyle; Silvia decided that if she took on the farm it would have to become organic. The idea of continuing the traditional farming methods and continuing centennial old strict relationships between farm owners and farm hands also did not appeal to them. In 2001 this transformation began as Silvia inherited the farm and they changed the name to Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) meaning Environmental Fortress Farm. Their dream and mission became to convert the farm into a sustainable business that took into consideration the environment and the relationships between people while producing high quality products.
This process began slowly and filled with learning experiences as in 2001 Silvia and Marcos were living in Chicago, Illinois. The transition to organic drastically reduced production as the plants suffered from the abrupt termination of chemicals. Marcos introduced a new proposal to his workers, which was to offer them a 50% ownership of the coffee they planted. A new concept to the area this also took time to mature. These attitudes gave Silvia, Marcos, and Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza the reputation of being the ‘crazy farmers’ in the area. After many years and many hurdles they were able to gain awareness from a small group of American specialty coffee professionals.
In 2007 Marcos exported his first container direct to the United States and put Fazenda Ambiental Foraleza on the map. In 2008 FAF won the Sustainability award from the Specialty Coffee Association of America. As a result many roasters began to follow FAF and come visit to see what they were doing.
In 2009 Silvia and Marcos’ son Felipe, who had been working at a specialty coffee micro-roastery in St. Louis called Kaldi’s came to join the team. Becoming the first family member to move to the farm full time, Felipe set up a coffee lab and began separating and studying lots by varietals and processing methods. Around the same time neighbors began expressing interest in the direct trade model and efforts towards improving quality and began partnering with FAF.
Today Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza is a farm, a network of farmers, a center of coffee studies, and an export company that mills and ships coffee worldwide.