February 18th, 2020
Before it's time to put seeds in the ground, some farmers try to sneak in a bit of travel over the winter months. Such was the case for John-Erik Schellenberg, founding farmer at Black Creek Permaculture Farm, who spent a good part of January in a small town called Tanetze, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It wasn't Erik's first trek to Tanetze. Back in 2008, long before this Pleasantville native was farming in the Hudson Valley and selling his beautiful produce at our market, he had fallen in love with this region and this town, and a coffee farming family in particular.
"The inhabitants of the town are indigenous Zapotec people, and live in a way that conserves much of the essential ways of their ancestors," says Erik. "The agricultural fields around the town, the milpa, look to the average person like a natural forest. "There may be some familiar crops like corn," he says," but they are growing among a cacophony of coffee shrubs, vanilla vines, banana plants, mango, zapote, citrus, cinnamon, and many other trees of various shapes and sizes planted in a way that mimics the form, function and aesthetic of a natural forest."
In 2008, he met the coffee farmer, Tomás, selling his beans at the tiny market place in the city of Oaxaca, a five-hour bus ride from Tanetze. They bonded immediately.
"The way they grow coffee isn't just organic," explained Erik. "It's indigenous ecology."
Erik has brought back a small supply of coffee beans from Tanetze which he will roast locally, so that he may sell them at the market this summer on the farmer's behalf. Beans that are grown in higher altitudes take longer to mature and produce a coffee that has more spine and character.
Looking forward to seeing Black Creek Farm and his small, sweet stash of beans at the market in May.