Jairo is a third-generation coffee grower from Armenia, Quindio, Colombia, and he grew up in coffee farms. Earlier in his career, he worked as an engineer at RACAFE, Colombia's second-largest exporter, and was later promoted to Mill Manager, a position he held until his retirement.
Jairo's involvement in coffee farming began when his father fell ill, and he had to take over the responsibility of managing and growing coffee at the family's farm. In 1987, he bought his first coffee farm, Finca La Esmeralda, where he spent the rest of his time cultivating Caturra, a common coffee variety in Colombia. Jairo saved some money from his job at the mill and used it to acquire five more farms - Villarazo, Mazatlan, Santa Monica, Maracay, and Buenos Aires.
Jairo faced challenges in his coffee production journey, and in 2005, the coffee industry experienced a downturn that forced him to switch to growing avocado, banana, plantain, and orange plantations to stay afloat. However, the rise of specialty coffee enabled Jairo to return to planting coffee. He started by leasing his brother's farm, Finca Castellon, to plant Geisha variety, which was a huge success. Jairo continues to plant exotic coffee varieties such as Pink Bourbon, Tabi, and Java.
Coffee is a family tradition for Jairo's family, and he and his wife, Luz Helena Salazar, continue to work on their farm. His sons, Carlos and Felipe, founded Cofinet, which sources and exports fine Colombian coffees worldwide.
Starting as an engineer at RACAFE, Jairo went back to coffee farming to continue family traditions.
Java has a long and exciting history of cultivation. The variety was initially introduced to Java by the Dutch in the early 19th century, coming directly from Ethiopia. It was initially believed to be a Typica selection. Later, in the mid-20th century, a local farmer brought the seeds to Cameroon via the Vilmorin company. There, Pierre Bouharmont, a breeder, discovered that it was partially tolerant to coffee berry disease (CBD), a prevalent issue for coffee growers in Africa. Java was also well suited for smallholder growers who use few inputs. After two decades of careful selection, it was released for cultivation in Cameroon in the 1980s and 1990s.
However, genetic fingerprinting of molecular markers has revealed that Java is not a Typica selection but rather a selection from an Ethiopian landrace population called Abyssinia. In 1991, the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) sent seeds of Java to Costa Rica. The objective was to provide options for smallholders who use low inputs, as well as for CBD tolerance (CBD is not currently present in Central America, but there is concern it may move to the region). Although the seeds were sent to PROMECAFE countries, they were never released in any of the countries. Subsequently, Java’s quality potential at high altitudes has been recognised. 2016, Panama became the first Central American country to recognise Java officially. It represents an exciting alternative to the Geisha (Panama), which has high cup quality but is more resilient for small farmers with better tolerance to coffee leaf rust and CBD.