This is not a resort town in Colorado or in the European Alps–This is Beautiful Boquete, Panama!
After spending hot and humid days looking at rainforests, Norma and I decided to spend a few days in the cooler weather and higher altitude of the state of Chiriqui. We are discussing here an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level. The town of Boquete is indeed 3,600 feet above sea level. Because we now spend virtually all of our time at sea level (not the 9,100 feet above sea level where we lived for 19 years in Colorado), 3,600 feet above sea level seems quite lofty to us! The highest elevation in Panama is right next door to Boquete at Volcan Baru, an active Volcano, which is at 3,740 meters (11,400 feet) high.
Since Boquete’s elevation is comparatively high, the climate is much cooler than on the coast. Actually, Boquete is usually 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the coastal towns. The dry season in Panama runs from December through March. At this time, it can get pretty hot in Boquete, but during the wet season, April through November, it can be quite cool.
When we moved to Panama, I brought one sweater with me. Boquete was the place where I really needed to wear it! This might sound a little exaggerated; however, my body is used to a daily average temperature of 85 – 90 degrees, which means a drop of 20 degrees puts you in a pretty cold spot.
Boquete was founded in 1911 and now has a population of over 20,000 people. Approximately 14% of the population are of foreign origin. Americans and Canadians are the majority of the foreigners, followed by people from Colombia and Venezuela. About 3% are Europeans. The expats in Boquete number right around 4,000.
Boquete is a tourist center with visitors coming from all over the world. That makes tourism the industry #2 in Boquete, with Agriculture being Industry #1. This includes coffee. Boquete has everything to make ecotourism one of the most popular industries in the area. Popular activities include hiking Volcan Baru and mountain climbing along the Caldera River.
Needless to say, visits to and tours of area coffee farms are wildly popular in Boquete and its surroundings. Norma & I visited and toured one of the best coffee farms in Boquete, Finca Dos Jefes. They produce Cafes de la Luna, which are outstanding! But dont run out to your local gourmet coffee shop to find it. Because it is truly one of the best coffees produced in Panama, you will be able to find it only on the shelves of select shops in Panama and in extremely high-end coffee shops in Europe. But you should definitely visit the farm and you will walk away with a bag of this wonderful coffee as part of your tour!
Finca Dos Jefes is one of the few small coffee farms that is actually profitable. This is due to producing quality coffee but also to the extremely humane treatment of the farm workers. The owner pays his workers well above the national average, enabling the workers to live with their families and to be able to send their children to school. Many coffee farm workers do not fare so well.
A great percentage of the workers on coffee farms in Panama are indigenous people called Ngobe Bugle, who normally live in the Comarca (reservation). Their desire, however, is to live closer to town so that they are able to send their children to school. Many of these people live in extreme poverty and deplorable circumstances.
More and more coffee buyers from foreign countries do not do business with growers who do not treat their workers humanely.We heard from a European buyer who insisted on seeing the living quarters of the workers at the coffee farm before placing any orders!
The coffee farm we are on in these photos is known for treating their workers extremely well. The expenses are higher, but the bottom line is still good because these buyers will pay higher prices when the coffee quality is good and the plantation treats their workers well.
This farm produces some of the super coffee called Geisha, which is actually not a specific coffee but rather a grading of the beans. This Geisha coffee normally gets prices of up to $100 per pound at auctions. This producers does not grow it as a main line, but more to prove that they are capable of producing that quality. I was not surprised when the owner of the farm told us that he is also growing limes and avocados. These are products we grow organically on our Mango Farm for the export market.
If you will click on this link, you can download and watch a video of Norma roasting coffee during our coffee farm tour. trim.08E37D5D-5E03-4B97-9623-9F0F79DF08A2
I must say that Boquete is a very charming community and I can see why so many tourists come here. There are plenty of nice hotels and inns available, from 5-star hotels to backpacker hostels. Golf is very popular in Boquete and keeps many of the expats busy. River rafting is a great experience in the fast-running rivers int he mountains around Boquete.
Boquete and its surrounding area are a perfect place to visit and to live. The only negative in the area is something that I detected and which upsets me very much. That is the fact that corporate America is hiding in the woods along the beautiful Cladera River (great fishing here) and are manufacturing GMO Trout, Tilapia and Salmon! GMOs in Panama!!! Aqua Bounty Technology is converting one of the best foods on earth into a travesty imitation that will make us sick, so that we will be dependent upon the pharmaceutical industry! The salmon is already genetically modified and the FDA already approved it for consumption last year. I truly hope the government of Panama will let them export every piece of that salmon to the US for gracing the tables of our elected officials and will keep it off the shelves of the stores in Panama.
BACK TO THE WOODS
In my last newsletter I promised to expand upon the plan for marketing the timber harvest from the forest investments here in Panama by the forest management company I highlighted in that newsletter. Click here to see that newsletter.
Whether you want to hear it or not, here in Panama everybody talks about Teak Plantations for sale and promise huge profits and a residency visa here. These promised profits are supposed to be from sales of first-class quality timber and mature logs. The problem with teak is that it takes more than 20 years to grow to a marketable size! Another problem is the majority of logs are not of prime quality that will bring the top price. The majority ends up in the grades that bring lower prices since the medium grades are plentiful in the marketplace and usually end up in a cheap bulk sale!
The provider of the timberland we work with has found an excellent solution for what to do with the mature trees in their forests. First of all, only with trees which are mature or trees that need to be taken out to make room for other growth will be cut. There will never be a clear cut!
Here is what makes the difference between experts and people who are looking for a quick buck! This management company has built a sawmill with kilns. This opens a brand new market for Panama to export lumber which is kiln dried. As far as I know, these are the first kilns for drying lumber in Panama. In addition, basically attached to the sawmill is a furniture factory, although it is not limited to furniture-making. Here they also build components for homes (doors, windows, etc), accessories, landscaping timbers, steps and walks–in short, everything that can be made of wood!
This center is equipped with the best wordworking machines provided by the world renowned company Bosch from Germany. This woodworking center has a school for teaching the locals how to become a woodworking technician.
The establishment of this woodworking center will not only increase the profit for the investor in timberland. It will also create many jobs in the area and help families to get their children educated. This is a prime example of “Impact Investment” which is one of our primary criteria when we evaluate an offering for investment.
I must say that this is the best investment I have seen in the more than 20 years I have spent in the timber and furniture industry all over the world! This is an investment I wholeheartedly recommend to everybody! I say everybody because of the safety and return, besides participating in cleaning up and restoring rainforests not only in Panama but worldwide. Another reason I can recommend this investment for everyone is the money involved. There are investment opportunities ranging from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars!
This is not the entire story. There is so much more to this timber investment which makes it not only profitable, but it makes it one of the “sweetest” investments in the world. As you know, we invested in the juiciest sweet investment in world –mangoes–approximately 2 years ago and many of you have taken advantage of that opportunity as well. Now we can also offer you another sweet investment that definitely deserves your attention.
My next newsletter will give a detailed description of why we call this the “sweetest investment in the world!”