In the coffee world, there’s no denying the allure and excellence of Kenyan coffee. With its bold acidity and bright flavors, Kenyan coffee is a delight for the senses. Whitestone Farms is small, female-owned estate creating big waves in the Kenyan coffee scene.
Established in the 1910s by colonists, Whitestone Farms produced its first harvest in 1910-1912 and hasn’t looked back since. The estate was bought by Mr. Nsanzimana Philippe in August 2005 and is now owned by Mrs. Claire Dusabe Nsanzimana.
Mr. Nsanzimana was raised on a coffee farm and after all his years working in Nairobi, he felt the call to return to coffee, which was his first passion. In 2010, Claire took over the operations at the farm following the untimely demise of her husband. A tenacious and bright woman, Claire refused to give up in the face of challenges and worked hard to keep the farm running, eventually leasing the farm to Coffee Management Services Ltd (CMS) who now help her manage the estate activities.
Whitestone Farms is known for its focus on cup quality and social initiatives. Located in the heart of the Kenyan highlands, Whitestone estate enjoys a temperate oceanic climate at 1539 MASL with rich, red volcanic soil which is well-developed, well-drained, deep, highly fertile, and excellent for coffee production.
Get To Know Whitestone Farms
“Growing coffee is an art,” says Ambrose Kirobi from Whitestone, “you feel so much joy when you see someone enjoy the coffee that you've worked hard to produce”.
This sentiment is felt throughout the estate which is spread across 34 hectares, with 21.8 hectares under coffee cultivation. Whitestone Farms is small by local standards where most coffee farms average around 80 hectares. But quality coffee isn’t dependent on farm size and Whitestone Farms makes the most use of the land they have to maintain a vibrant and bustling estate.
Coffee grown here is mostly SL28 with about 1 hectare of Ruiru 11. SL28 was developed in 1912, in Scotland and is a big, bushy plant that grows up to 7 feet. However, these plants are capped at Whitestone so they don't grow too high.
The majority of coffee grown here is harvested around May, the average amount of AA harvested is 10-12%, AB is 55%, PB/Peaberry is 5%, and the remaining 25% is C-grade.
From Seed To Cup
Coffee farming isn’t something that happens in isolation and here at Whitestone Farms, processing the coffee they grow is given the attention it deserves.
"Result after result, year after year, there's always something to work on and discover" explains Ambrose, detailing the work that goes into coffee processing here.
It all begins with picking only the ripest cherries. Coffee pickers undergo rigorous training to develop their picking and sorting skills. When the picking is completed, the coffee cherries are moved to the pulping station where it’s sorted by hand to remove any unwanted material which might have been brought from the field.
The pulping is carried out immediately to achieve the best quality when the pulp is removed; the pulp is then placed in a specified area to decompose and later used as manure on the farm since it is a good source of potassium. Nothing goes to waste here, highlighting how coffee estates can successfully implement sustainability and circularity in their operations.
The parchment is fermented, washed, graded, and soaked in clean water for up to 16 hours to improve the coffee quality. The coffee is then dried under the sun and turned frequently to ensure uniformity in drying. The defective beans are hand-sorted at this stage where it is clearly visible. The dried parchment is forwarded to Kofinaf Coffee Mills where the milling is done and classified according to the bean size and weight. The beans are then bagged and ready for sale.
Sustainability and consideration for the environment is implemented at every stage of the process. The use of renewable solar energy is emphasized as it gives good quality, lowers fuel expenses, and prevents environmental degradation. The water used at the pulping unit is recycled to cut down the amount of water used while the wastewater is disposed of safely so as not to pollute the waterways at the farm.
Sustainability At Every Step
While this process has been honed over time, farm management and economic development have changed rapidly in the last 20 years. Widespread urban development and climate change are the major drivers behind this shift. Unmitigated urbanization is reducing the land available for farming, creating land pressure as agricultural land gets converted into settlement areas. The effects of climate change are particularly difficult to work around- rainfall has reduced, the days are getting hotter, and pest issues have increased due to warmer weather
Whitestone Farms has risen to the challenge and is focused on finding solutions that benefit the coffee plants, the workers, and everyone in the local community. No matter the challenges, they believe in finding solutions and still produce exceptional coffee.
"Coffee farming is always changing. You can't do the same thing you did last year. The field is very dynamic and you have to be constantly engaged." adds Ambrose, "The job is very tough for those working in the field but the results are very rewarding".
The estate appreciates the importance of the environment in its operations. The natural habitat has been preserved whereby indigenous trees are available and various species of birds, primates, and other wildlife animal species can be spotted on the farm, a testament to their commitment to preserving the natural balance of nature.
The estate has embarked on a tree planting program in areas that are not forested and areas where trees were harvested. In 2020, three hundred and fifty trees were planted during the long rainy season in April. Tree planting has continued annually within production areas to provide shade to coffee trees as a way of dealing with climate change.
Nurturing The Whitestone Estate Community
Farm workers are the backbone of any estate and that’s true for Whitestone as well. During peak picking season the estate employs up to 150 workers, both permanent and casual. Many of these workers and their families live in houses on the farm property where they are supported with various essential services. All the workers receive clean drinking water in their homes which is tested annually to confirm it is free from contamination. Electricity for lighting the houses is provided by the estate. Latrines and toilets are provided and are maintained. Each family is allocated a unit of its own, so families have their privacy and space to live independently. The workers who don’t live on the farm are from neighboring towns and villages.
Whitestone doesn’t stop here when it comes to social support for their workers. Firmly believing in empowering future generations, the estate ensures that all school-going children go to school. A nursery school is provided at the farm and a competent, well-trained teacher is engaged at the estate’s expense. The parents are encouraged to take advantage of the free primary education provided by the government and a government school is nearby so the children do not walk a long distance to school.
Finally, they conduct regular training in occupational health and safety to ensure working conditions remain safe. Workers are also trained in their area of specialization. In particular, supervisors are trained in occupational health and safety by Global Resolutions Limited to keep operations moving smoothly and to keep the workers safe, happy, and healthy.
Whitestone Farms & Era Of We
As a female-owned farm, Whitestone Farms stands out in a male-dominated industry. Their unique position brought them in contact with the International Trade Organisation who were profiling farms with a focus on women-owned estates. Whitestone Farms was shortlisted and this led to their partnership with Era Of We.
Their commitment to excellent coffee, emphasis on sustainability, and love for their community align perfectly with the Era Of We ethos. The future is always unpredictable but rest assured that Whitestone Farms will keep producing excellent coffee and stay relevant in the market.
This resilient spirit is outlined by Ambrose when he says "You get to compete with your peers and learn more. When you see recognition for your hard work, it's very motivating. When you love something, it feels good to see good results" I couldn’t say it better myself!