When most Americans think of coffee, they think of South America or Hawaii. What they may not know is that Puerto Rico has a long and significant relationship with coffee. Funds provided to a coffee plantation owner by USDA Rural Development through the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program are helping to preserve that heritage.
Coffee first came to our island in the 1700s, and was for a long time, a primary export. Some of the finest coffee in the world is produced in the central mountain range in the town of Adjuntas. A combination of high altitude, cool weather, precipitation and volcanic soil allows the growing of a coffee variety with very flavorful beans.
The one significant drawback to coffee production here in Puerto Rico is the expense of purchasing propane gas for roasters to dry and roast the beans. Recently, the owner of the Hacienda Monte Alto plantation, Jimmy Roman, came to USDA Rural Development seeking funds to buy special toaster ovens. Instead of propane, these ovens use coffee bean shells for fuel. We were able to provide a $14,000 grant to Mr. Roman and his family.
Because of this new drying system, this small family-owned plantation won’t be forced by rising fuel costs to raise the price it charges for its beans. Mr. Roman tells me that the drying system will stabilize production costs, preserving the 15 permanent and 40 seasonal jobs that the plantation supports. It is a pleasure to work with this plantation owner, Mr. Roman and his family to help ensure that a long-established custom, that of harvesting locally grown coffee, will continue and that a hard working family will continue to work the land here in Puerto Rico.
José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico