San Antonio del Tequendama, Colombia
The farm La Pedregoza stands out as an exemplary model for agricultural businesses everywhere. It is located at a height of 1620 meters above sea level and nestled within the beautiful city of San Antonio del Tequendama in Colombia. Founded in 1989, La Pedregoza, run by the Tovar brothers Rafael Tovar and César Tovar, is a glowing example of what a sustainable shade-grown coffee farm can look like. The company is one of the few bird-friendly certified farms in Colombia. Their guiding philosophy is to maintain clean farming by applying organic agricultural practices to their production process of delicious shade-grown coffee. As they state on their Facebook page La Pedregoza is trying to find “the balance and harmony between the environment, the health and well-being of workers, and economic sustainability.” In order to improve their sustainable business model, the Tovar brothers began working with the Smithsonian Institute to obtain their Bird-Friendly certification. The collaboration with the Smithsonian is particularly impressive because at the time of writing there were only four bird-friendly certified coffee farms in all of Colombia. La Pedregoza’s Bird-Friendly badge elevates their coffee in all respects and is a great model to other coffee farms in the region!
La Pedregoza: A Place to Engage the Community with Birds
Developing spaces dedicated to the admiration of birds is entirely within character for the Tovars; their impressive devotion to ornithology permeates through their actions and inspires others at every turn. The journey to creating these spaces began in childhood when their mother instilled in them a passion for birds. Their passion for birds was encouraged after attending a webinar organized by Marta L. del Campo, the Bilingual Outreach Specialist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. After the webinar the Tovar brothers applied for a mini-grant, thus becoming even more involved with the Lab of Ornithology. In their interview, the Tovars divulged their excitement and belief that this would snowball into bigger and greater initiatives, stating, “This will be a snowball effect that needs to grow a little by little.”
As a result of its influential presence in the region, La Pedregoza has created a safe space for bird lovers to share their passion for birds, participate in citizen science, and learn about shade-grown coffee. As an original farm initiative, Rafael and César created the Parque Temático Cafetero Finca La Pedregoza (The Pedregoza Farm: Coffee Theme Park). In this community space, fellow Cafeteros (coffee farmers), who share Rafael and César Tovar’s love for birds can come together and discuss ways to deepen their commitment to the conservation of bird habitats. As part of this initiative, the brothers built a school called the Escuela de Avistamiento de Aves to facilitate birding and eBird data entry workshops for the community. The Tovars’ initiatives to strengthening their community’s involvement with birding have not gone unnoticed as they have been awarded first place among local birders.
2020 Global Big Day y October Big Day During the Pandemic
For the past few years, Rafael and César, their family, and members of the San Antonio del Tequendama community in Colombia have celebrated e the beauty of birds by joining the citizen science events October Big Day and Global Big Day organized by eBird. Usually, these global bird citizen science events drive people to go outdoors in groups and have fun while sharing their exciting bird sightings. In 2020, however, as COVID-19 reached their community, the events couldn’t be carried out as usual. At first, there was uncertainty about how to participate in a safe and healthy way. Rafael and César Tovar took the initiative in the region and found ways to share their passion and love for birds with their community! They understood that the community needed protection from the virus and that the health of the community came first. They took several approaches to engage their community in the events while protecting the health of every participant.
They organized workshops about birds, citizen science, and conservation at the La Pedregoza to help their community to join these global citizen science events. These educational sessions were conducted outdoors and in a socially distanced way. For those who had to stay home due to this year’s limitations, they were able to carry out their bird sightings through their window!
Rafael and César continue to promote bird watching and conservation and have many plans for La Pedregoza and its mission. We will keep you informed about the next steps in this life story that brings inspiration and hope for a world in balance between nature, birds, and the sustainable development of communities!