Passing Down a Passion
Over 100 Years of Peixoto Family Coffee Growing History
As with many professions in the world, and in particular those associated with agriculture, coffee growing is a trade that is often passed down from generation to generation. More numerous than the generations of coffee farmers themselves are their many tales of past harvests. The elation of bountiful harvests is all too often washed away by the tears of devastation that come with being at the mercy of nature. Nonetheless, coffee farmers persist. They thrive on a sense of pride in doing what their parents before them did and doing it better. Simply put, they have a passion for their craft, and they shoulder their family legacies with the utmost respect for those who came before them. It is a lifestyle and a culture that is rich in heritage.
While we’re not exactly sure how far back the Peixoto family coffee growing legacy goes, a good place to start is with Nelson Alvares Peixoto who was born in 1920. The story passed down in our family tells us that Nelson’s mother gave birth to all of her 16 children amongst rows of coffee trees. Nelson only received elementary education in a rural school and never left his farm community until his senior years, yet his legacy goes well beyond his formal education and geographic scope. Nelson built a family farm and system of agricultural production for his family, neighbors, and workers that would make any modern farm jealous for its sustainability. Everything the family needed was produced right there at the farm: rice, beans, meats, milk, fruits, and vegetables. He called his land Boa Vista (“good view”) due to its beautiful location on a hill with a 180-degree view of coffee-covered hills, waterfalls, and the magnificent Rio Grande. Nelson raised his entire family at Boa Vista.
José Augusto Peixoto, one of Nelson’s five children, was born in 1946 and raised at the farm. He remembers a humble and yet happy childhood, helping his mother and father raise cattle, harvest coffee, and provide food for the family. He developed a passion for coffee even as a young child. At age five, José Augusto started planting his own coffee trees in his back yard, which he used to harvest and, after embarking on a three-hour mule ride to the neighboring village, sell at the local market. His family moved to the neighboring town of Ibirací Minas Gerais in the early 60s, where his dad established residence and lived the rest of his years. José Augusto left to a bigger city where he put himself through medical school, working several jobs to pay for his own studies. When he finished school in his mid-twenties, he married Thelma de Lima, a girl he always had his eyes on from the same small town of Ibirací. Together, they built a family and had their three girls, raising them connected to their roots in farming and agriculture.
José Augusto used the money from his profession to buy contiguous small plots of land (“sítios”) so he could start his own coffee production. His passion and devotion for coffee only grew stronger over the years and in the 70s he started producing hundreds of bags of coffee out of his various small plots of land. His entrepreneurial spirit is what led our family to that ideal piece of land, which neighbored his father’s farm Boa Vista.
With the passing of his parents, José Augusto eventually inherited a portion of Fazenda Boa Vista, which he combined with his own land in the 2000s to create what is now known as Fazenda Sao José da Boa Vista, which literally means “Saint José’s Farm of Good View”. “Saint” José of course being José Augusto Peixoto, the third-generation head coffee farmer/patriarch of our family farm. While the workers on the farm may view him as a saint, we just call him Dad, or “Pai” in Portuguese. When walking through the endless rows of coffee trees with him, it’s clear that he feels at home here. After all, looking down the hillside below, one can still see the small house in which he was born and raised.
Specialty coffee in both the United States, and in the world as a whole, is ushering in a brand new wave. The modern specialty coffee drinking public now values quality, trace-ability, and intrinsic origin-based flavor profiles above all else. Across the world in coffee producing countries, the youngest generation of coffee producers who are attuned to the current marketplace are beginning to take the reins, and in conjunction with their elders are producing specialty coffees unlike anything their families have produced in the past.
On the Peixoto family farm, this is exactly where we stand today. At the same time we are learning and leveraging generations of coffee growing experience, we are also helping to change their perception of the specialty coffee marketplace and enlighten them as to the possibilities that exist when coffee production is approached from the vantage point of the modern consumer.
At the same time we are literally nurturing new seedlings in the soil of our farm, we are figuratively planting the seeds of the next generation of our specialty coffee farmers. While we work hard today to continue our family legacy, we work even harder to ensure that it continues beyond us. Whether it’s the children of the Peixoto family or the those of the many farmhands that work in conjunction with us on our farm, our future and our legacy depends upon them. A lot of people talk a great deal about “sustainability” these days…..we take great pride in actually doing something about it. It is both a privilege and our responsibility on the Peixoto family farm.