From Seed to TVThe host of long-running Colombian show about coffee production aims to educate and inspire growers
By Dan Leif
For American consumers, the face of Colombian coffee is Juan Valdez. But for Colombians themselves, the crop may be better personified by Carlos Armando Uribe. The energetic botanist is the host of “Las Adventuras de Profesor Yarumo,” a half-hour show about coffee production that airs weekly on Colombian public-access television. The program is produced by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation and has been running for 27 years. Uribe has acted as host for the last 17, meaning he has put together more than 750 episodes, all of which aim to educate farmers on best practices and better connect Colombians to the crop that sits at the heart of the nation’s economy.
Fresh Cup caught up with Uribe on the floor of last month’s SCAA expo in Portland, where the “professor” and his film crew were working on an episode highlighting the consumption end of the industry.
Q: Why is your host character called Profesor Yarumo?
A: Yarumo is a type of tree. So it would be like having a Professor Orange here in the United States who talks about taking care of plants. Our show is directed toward farmers, but really it’s for anybody who’s interested in agriculture and preserving what we have and taking care of nature. It shows examples of people’s lives and talks about different qualities and tests that they run on coffee.
Q: What happens in a typical episode?
A: Recently, we went to a little town called Aguadas. What I liked so much about it is we talked with these farmers who were growing coffee in the shade, and they had many kinds of birds that were living right there. The existence of those birds meant they were taking good care of the land. The show that comes out this week looks at different diseases that affect coffee.
Q: In every episode you wear the same thing: a yellow shirt and navy blue hat. What does that outfit represent?
A: The agronomists who work for the federation and go out and educate farmers all dress like this. There are 1,500 of these people in Colombia. The federation and that technical assistance are really important to coffee farmers. They’re always researching coffee and letting farmers know, for instance, what the best fertilizer is or what kind of plant will grow best in a given area. They are dedicated to making coffee better—that’s all they do.
Q: What if a farmer wants to try growing or selling practices that aren’t in line with the federation’s ideas. Is that ever a problem?
A: The federation runs tests and will do them over and over again so they know whatever information they give out is going to work. The majority of people just listen to what they say because the federation has made sure it’s something that will benefit farmers.
Q: What is the biggest challenge Colombian farmers are confronting right now?
A: Right now it’s the weather. It has been raining now more than ever, and because of that, production is down. Rust has increased. It attacks the leaves. We’ve done studies and found that last year the amount of sunlight on most farms was down 15 percent. Usually we’re at 2,000 hours of sunlight a year, and last year there was only 1,600 to 1,700 hours. Farmers have to change the type of coffee grown and find one that is resistant to rust and can survive in current conditions.
Q: How important is coffee to Colombia as a country?
A: Colombia has 1,100 municipalities, and 588 of them produce coffee. Also, 750,000 people are directly employed by the industry, while 500,000 are indirectly employed by it. One out of every three jobs in the country is related to coffee. The point of our show is to give all these people something to look up to, to have something positive in mind as they work. I always tell people that if you want to see where Colombia hopes to go as a country, you should visit a Colombian coffee farm. You’ll see peace, values, development and people who have the ability to dream.