Daniel Garza Vásquez (’07, El Salvador)
If there is a personification of a life-long learner, Daniel would be it.
When Daniel graduated from EARTH University, he passed up a job offer in Costa Rica and returned to a family property with the dream of starting a coffee business. Daniel’s parents had purchased a property in 2000 in the impoverished coffee-growing region of Ahuachapán in western El Salvador. While a portion of the property already had coffee plants, with his parents working in San Salvador about 100 kilometers away, they were left fallow.
With his parents willing to invest in coffee trees and equipment, Daniel began researching and taking courses in all phases of coffee production. He even worked for free at a coffee processing plant for two weeks to learn the process.
‘At EARTH our professors told us “We are teaching you where to look and where to learn so that you can be your own teacher.” That spirit influenced me professionally,’ explains Daniel.
Daniel wanted his business to have a role in every step of the coffee value chain in order to create more jobs for his area. And over the years, his quest to do that took him throughout Central America and the U.S. to learn everything, from growing and processing coffee to becoming a world-class barista.
“I didn’t want to do business and keep people poor. If I’m going to grow, I wanted other people to share in that growth. I try to pay them better…and the majority of our employees are women and single mothers. Working with coffee has helped me to change others’ lives,” says Daniel, whose company – called Entre Nubes – now employs 45 people and pays about double that of other area farms.
Over the years, he built a micro-processing plant, began roasting on-site, started a plant nursery, and built a coffee shop now visited by national and international tourists. In addition to his focus on social development, Daniel has implemented water-smart processing methods on his farm to conserve a limited resource in this part of El Salvador.
Daniel trained several employees as baristas, and many have gone on to compete in the World Barista Championship, adding: “Everything that I learn, I share. All of the things that I know how to do, our employees are able to do. From being a barista, to the knowledge of the farm, to how we process our coffee once it’s harvested, why we do it like that, and what the impact is on the environment and on quality.”
After years of working 12 hour days, seven days per week, Daniel needed a break. But it was no vacation. Daniel spent two-months in southern California working at a coffee roaster and a gourmet coffee shop in the U.S. “I can finally see what happens to all of the coffee we grow in our region, and meeting people willing to pay more for quality, sustainable coffee is gratifying,” he says.
Daniel’s commitment to doing well for others is something he attributes to his EARTH education, noting, “If you care for the things you do, the things you do will have a positive impact on people. If I just saw this as a business, I wouldn’t have gone this far. At EARTH they taught us that when we go back to our communities and countries, whatever we do, do something that matters. Help other people, help your community improve their quality of life.”
He continues, “This lesson was so well imprinted on me in every course at EARTH, that it stuck and changed a part of my heart. So I left knowing that I wanted to be a business man, but I didn’t want to forget other people in the process. This is what drives me.”
To the W.K. Kellogg Foundation who provided the scholarship that made his EARTH education possible, he says, “Thank you very much, because you really changed my life. And because of you, because of the tools I was given, I am now able to change the lives of others.”