Finca San Francisco Pie de la Cuesta

Nestled in the verdant hills of Guatemala's department of Quetzaltenango, Finca San Francisco Pie de la Cuesta -- a 1660-acre (675-hectare) farm that grows coffee, macadamia nuts, limes, avocados and bananas -- is a model of sustainability.

Under the leadership of manager Herbet Gossmann, the farm became Rainforest Alliance Certified™ in January 2009. 'The benefits,' he says, 'have been overwhelming.'

To prevent soil erosion, a widespread problem on coffee farms that can lead to siltation and the pollution of streams, workers have learned to maintain grass cover around coffee plants.

To provide shade cover for coffee plants -- and habitat for wildlife -- over 100,000 native trees have been planted on the farm.

Workers and coffee pickers have since noticed that wildlife populations are flourishing -- armadillos, deer, green parrots, fresh-water crabs, frogs and rare white hawks (pictured here) have recently been spotted on and around Finca San Francisco.

Thanks to new energy-saving tactics and building modifications designed to improve natural lighting in the house and mill, the farm has cut its monthly energy consumption by up to 85 percent.

Workers have participated in educational workshops and learned the importance of maintaining a healthy farm, disposing of waste properly and washing their clothes in clean water. Safety signs have also been placed around the farm, serving as helpful reminders for workers and their families.

Full-time workers and their families have access to free, dignified housing.

The farm supports a small school (and playground) where 34 children attend daily classes. Education is free for the children of farm workers, and includes environmentally-focused curricula.

Thanks to its certified status, the farm has formed trading relationships with Nestlé Nespresso, Costa Coffee (UK), Balzac Brothers (US) and other buyers seeking sustainably grown and harvested coffees.

Today, Finca San Francisco Pie de la Cuesta is the picture of sustainability -- home to healthy and happy workers, cleaner soils and waterways, and more productive lands.

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