The story of the Tudela family with coffee began in the mid-70s with two brothers (Diogo Tudela’s father and uncle), in Paraná, a state in the south of Brazil. They started with a small 100-hectare coffee farm. However, after they faced a heavy frost, the brothers decided to sell the farm and go to the Cerrado Mineiro region, in Minas Gerais, where remain until today.
They worked in partnership until 1986. After they ended the partnership, both went on to work on their own business. Then, in 1987, Diogo and his father took over the farm. From the two farms they acquired, Diogo and his father were in charge of the Castelhana farm and his uncle got the other one. They bought the land together but it was divided later. Currently, the farm has 480 hectares of planted coffee and a biannual average of 16-17,000 bags of coffee produced.
One of their first investments at the Castelhana farm was on irrigation. Diogo began by irrigating 120 hectares of coffee and increased that number as time went by. That became a huge milestone for the farm’s history and provided them with greater security to guarantee their coffee production. Since back then they did not master technology like they do today, they pinned all their hopes on irrigation as a way to guarantee they had a good coffee flowering. After that, they expanded their investments in plant nutrition and pest/disease control.
In 1998, a new change regarding the coffee harvest took place: the bean hulling process. Since then, they began to compete in different coffee contests which served as a motivator for them to specialize more and more and improve their quality. As a result, they invested in infrastructure, staff training, and new equipment, such as coffee drying machines with temperature control.
Starting in the 2000s, the farm started the process of becoming more sustainable. They were the first farm to have an environmental license in the Cerrado Mineiro. Diogo reinforces that he has always been attentive to the importance of producing more sustainable coffee, as well as preserving the water used in irrigation and the riparian forests. He highlights their partnership with the Minas Gerais State Forestry Institute, which aims to plant trees native to the region in the forest. He also points out they hold different certifications, such as the UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance certificate.
Currently, the farm permanently employs 42 people and during harvest time this number goes up to 60 people. The harvest season lasts from 4 to 5 months, since it does not only entail the harvest itself but the entire coffee processing, as well as its benefit and preparation. Even with all the technology available, the harvest of new coffees is done manually in the first three harvests, as new plants are still very sensitive. Diogo does not give up manual harvesting because he sees it as a way to preserve the plant’s service life for longer.
To assess which variety of coffee suits the farm best, he selected 10 different samples of cultivars with good adaptability and a positive history of productivity in different regions. He began planting it in commercial areas — a different coffee variety each year — so he could evaluate its quality, productivity, maturation, detachment and sieve size. All of these results were compared to the Mundo Novo and Catuaí, two of the most sustainable varieties in Brazil. Diogo points out that he is close to reaching his 4th harvest under this study and he hopes to have all the results consolidated by their 10th harvest, which will take around 20 years total. Even with such a long deadline, he believes these results will serve to guide the farm’s economic sustainability process.
When it comes to the planting process, the first thing to be defined is the coffee variety that will be planted. After that, he usually plants the seed he gets from his own farm. In case he does not get the desired seed, he can get a sample at the Procafé Foundation, in Varginha, Minas Gerais. From land marking to the survey of failures, diseases and anything that is happening on the farm — all the planning is made with drones. This results in better use of farm spaces and less waste of land, which can be monitored in real time. Diogo believes it is a much easier way to carry out field analysis.
In the post-harvest period, all harvested coffee is processed on the same day, the natural, cherry and green coffees. Another important point is that, besides being certified, the coffee is tracked in service orders, from the first day of flowering to the last day of harvest. It is possible to track the coffee bags and know what happened during the process, whoever harvested it, the time it was harvested, which dryer was used, which driver transported it to the warehouse, and a lot more information. On top of that, all this information is available to the clients.
In regards to his contribution to the community where he operates, Diogo explains that he contributes with educational lectures in schools, aimed at family, work and drug use prevention. Besides that, he provides school supplies for low-income students and he also carries out field work with them, in which the kids visit the farm, plant trees and follow along their growth.
Diogo Tudela has been committed to productivity, quality and sustainability, always seeking to bring balance to the farm. He expects his child to enjoy coffee as much as he does just so he can do an even better job in the future. This way, he will continue leading improvements, year after year.