Biggby Coffee Commission in Nicaragua

Photo Credit @Michelle Fish

Current Commission, I travel the world on photojournalism assignment with Biggby Coffee. We began our journey in January. Due to Covid we have postponed our travels until it is safe. Next up is Africa!  Enjoy the first trip to Nicaragua here. 


A note from Robert Fish Co-CEO and Founder BIGGBY Coffee…

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have Kim Zahnow photograph for us.  There’s always at least one belly-busting, laugh-out-loud moment that leaves you with a sense of fun and adventure. Michelle and I have followed her work… it’s broad, and she’s exceptional at everything she touches. Amazing portraits, landscapes, fireworks, rock bands, micro lens shots… everything. Kim is a lovely, positive person to be around. So when we had the chance to invite a photographer with us on our trip to a Nicaraguan coffee farm, Kim was our first choice. We knew she would capture something essential about the place and the people. She was tireless, getting down on the floor with the kids, climbing up buildings to catch coffee processing shots, trudging through the underbrush of a tropical rainforest, and always finding the humanity and the spark in the people she photographed. Plus, she was a just a lot of fun to be with. Very easy going, ready for every adventure, and always kind and generous. Her work was majestic. We are thrilled with the images… they tell the story of the place and the people in a way that is fundamental and true. Kim Zahnow is bright light in the world. She’s a huge talent and we are looking forward to working with her on many, many more projects in the future!” ~Bob

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Carlos and Leana Ferry-Machado began El Recreo Coffee Farm in 1972

When you have a dream or vision in Nicaragua, you do not have the resources or even a realistic expectation of turning a dream into reality.  Nicaragua has endured natural disasters and wars that have resulted in the population being the second highest poverty nation in the western hemisphere.  El Recreo Coffee Farm has been created through the vision of Carlos and Leana rooted from over 50 years ago. They have endured wars, loss of crops, loss of land, and loss of everything but the shirts on their back. They had to seek political asylum, send their own children to safety, and then buy their land back again after the war. Their dedication, hard work, and relationship with their community has kept their dream alive.  Carlos and Leana are Heroes. 

Children

The children of El Recreo Coffee Farm are the exception in comparison to other children living in Nicaragua.  Leana has overseen the education of more than 3,000 Nicaraguan children. This is the only coffee farm in Nicaragua that does not allow child labor.  Carlos and Leana pay their workers more than the other farms with the understanding that if they have children, the children will go to school on the farm and not work. Leana instills in everyone around her that “Education is the one thing that nobody can take away from you.” The children are fed three meals a day, educated, and encouraged to play. The farm now has a trade school, university accredited school, and a vision for a school for young women.

El Recreo farm provides their workers with housing, food, healthcare and education. The opportunities at El Recreo are having a lasting impact on the community and country. 

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim ZahnowHeading back to town at the end of the workday.

Farm Life

The sounds of the farm are like a soul filling song that you want to replay over and over again. No electricity for lighting meant that when the sun set, everyone went to bed.  I fell asleep to sounds of random animals on the tin roof, Luna the dog keeping everyone safe, and the serenade of jungle frogs. These nights were some of the best nights sleep I have ever had. I woke to the sounds Juana making tortillas at 3:00am, Carlos leaving to pick up workers at 4:30am, and the kitchen staff arriving to prep the day’s meals.  The workers were joyful at every moment, from the beginning of the day, through the very hard work of the day, to the very end of each day.

Antenoro GonzalesPhoto Credit @Kim Zahnow

Maria Gonzales has picked cherries at El Recreo for many seasons.Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Juana making tortillas.Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Carlo Ferry-Machado announcing dinner with his conch shell. Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Success

The success at El Recreo are abundant everywhere.  It is not hard to immediately see all the things we take for granted in our everyday lives, which is ironic because the everyday joy of life at El Recreo, is also immediately obvious. Yet higher education, succeeds in offering real future opportunities for everyone that reaches higher. Leana and Carlos are approaching their 80’s yet work tirelessly everyday. Their children are passionate about the farm and continue to help. Their daughter Miriam Morales has a thriving coffee shop in Boston called El Recreo that serves their delicious coffee and was responsible for connecting Biggby to El Recreo.
Below are more images; your looking glass as a glimpse into the everday life and culture so many beautiful  people share.

Leana with the Rainforest Alliance Award Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Morales Family, two generations of Leana and CarlosPhoto Credit @Kim Zahnow

Bob and Michelle Fish Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Thank you Bob and Michelle Fish for all the opportunities you create.

Learn more about the farms of Biggby Coffee at this wonderful blog by Michelle Fish. 

One Bigg Island In Space

El Recreo Coffee Farm Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Workers Village Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Ripe Coffee Cherries Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Church on the Farm Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Faith and Hope Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Healthcare Center Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Wet Milling Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Coffee cherries drying in the sun. Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Future site of the school for women. Leana instills in everyone that your education is the one thing that nobody can take away from you. Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Granada and Managua

We were fortunate to have a day touring Granada, Managua, and Masaya Volcano National Park. I could spend years photographing the people, historical architecture, natural beauty. 

Granada. This was a thriving art community before the war.Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Guirilas in Sebaco. This was one of my favourite foods. Sweet corn tortilla served with cheese and creama. Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Masaya Volcano, Managua, Nicaragua Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

Masaya Volcano, Managua, Nicaragua Photo Credit @Kim Zahnow

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