The Santa Isabel farm was founded in 1899 in Santa Rosa Guatemala by Federico and Isabel Keller. In 2005, their grandsons Alex and Martin transitioned the farm to operate with 100% organic farming. They compost the pulp and waste from the mill for fertilizer, use recycled water for processing and have a canal planted with lilies to naturally treat the mill’s waste-water. Santa Isabel uses a flock of sheep to control weeds on the coffee farm. The manure from the sheep then becomes an important component of the compost.
To fight coffee leaf rust, the farm has experimented with heartier and more disease-resistant varieties of coffee. The Santa Isabel farm is a wonderful example of sustainable agriculture. They are continually innovating to minimize environmental impact and make the farm more climate change resistant.
Santa Isabel has been practicing Biodynamic agriculture since 2009. Speaking about why the farm began practicing biodynamics, Alex Keller says “With organic methods we hit a wall and were not obtaining desired results… We were missing something additional. Immersing ourselves in biodynamics invited us to make a deeper analysis and diagnosis. Applying biodynamic preparations and working with the biodynamic calendar has helped us achieve better results with our compost, with the plants, and in the cup.” Santa Isabel often hosts biodynamic workshops at the farm and has welcomed many biodynamic collaborators. “We still have much to learn, and we are excited to do so!”.
60% of the land at Santa Isabel is planted with coffee under the native forest cover, while the remaining land is a protected nature preserve. The farm is dedicated to sustainable agriculture and sustainable community. The Kellers maintain a school, provide a health clinic and three meals a day for workers, and help maintain the roads and bridges in their community.