Mr Hu was born into a turbulent political and economic period in Yunnan. As a child he remembers only getting meat to eat once a year. However, he grew up with a fierce curiosity, solid work ethic, and confidence to trust his instincts.
All these traits were demonstrated during his time in university where he studied agriculture. The university had land they weren’t using, and as class president, he decided they could use it to test out the skills they were learning in the classroom.
With his fellow classmates they used this school land to test out growing fruit, vegetables, wet and dry soils, seedlings and grafting. They also grew chickens, rabbits, and started a fish farm.
But there was still more land they could use so they asked to start sugar processing. The school gave them permission but refused to invest in it. With their own money as a class they set up the operation and made 1000 RMB profits in the first year and grew to 2500 RMB in the second year. By the third year they cleared 4000 RMB profits from the sugar. Back then this was quite a sum of money.
After college Mr Hu continued to try out many different things. His first job was gem trading where he traveled deep into the countryside with body guards. He didn’t find any real gems but he did find some rare coins that he brought back and sold for a large profit. His second job was a tea tester. Because he didn’t drink and smoke like most people in the area, his taste buds were undamaged and could pick up on the different quality levels. He became quite successful and well known.
From there he held a government agriculture job and worked in management in a rubber factory before he started to get into coffee.
Mr Hu wasn’t the first in the region to start growing coffee but through several hard years many of the early adopters gave up, so he is one of the longest and most experienced coffee farmers. He is well known and respected in the area and has grown coffee into a very successful family business.
It is the same qualities he demonstrated in university that make him so successful in coffee now. He is always trying and testing in every part of the process. His main farm also works as a research center to improve the coffee. He is testing plants, soils, slopes, spacing, picking methods, processing, drying, aging and other steps of the process. He has dozens of these testing projects going at a time and the testing numbers of his coffee reflect this attention to detail.
But life isn’t just about coffee. Though Mr Hu wants his farms and coffee to succeed, he sees the real benefit in how his business and coffee growing can benefit the community and the region. Though he has grown his coffee farm quite large he is always looking for ways to build up and train those in the community who just need a chance. The people he has hired have become like family. They really respect both Mr Hu and his wife because they both are regularly out on the farm working and laughing with them.
Project Goal: The goal of this project was to create images and stories from Yunnan farms to help YCT sell the coffee from these farms to suppliers and create demand in the customer base. Secondarily the project was to show and educate the about Yunnan coffee.
Project Scope: Mr Hu’s story was part of a larger project for YCT. We did 2 weeks of photography around the region to capture the stories of the farms, the culture, and the different steps of coffee processing.