For many years, Tolima has remained hidden in plain sight between other well-known coffee growing regions because armed conflict and coca leaf production isolated producers and exposed them to high rates of violence. During this time the municipality of Planadas, located in the southernmost corner of Tolima, had remained an untapped source of specialty coffee where thousands of producers have been cultivating coffee on just a few acres of land intercropped with shade trees, bananas, corn, beans and sugarcane. As conflict has subsided in recent years, locally organized associations have taken the lead in creating market access for these producers. Established in 2014, Asociación de Productores de Café Especial La Orquídea (ASOPROCAFEES) has focused on certifications and training producers in best organic practices. The cooperative has invested in basic infrastructure needs like road improvements, establishing local warehouses, creating micro-credit for producers and investing in social programs on a larger and more impactful scale, using the collective resources generated from the sale of coffee. Environmental training programs, healthcare initiatives, life insurance, and educational opportunities are just some of the ways the cooperative strives to improve the quality of life for coffee
producers and their families. During the harvest, each of the 60 producer-members carefully pick and sort cherries before depulping, fermenting, washing, and drying the coffee using their own micro-mills. Traceability and quality control throughout the post-harvest process is ensured because ASOPROCAFEES collaborates with Mastercol, a Colombian exporter company that provides crucial logistical support for things like warehousing and milling coffee for export to the international market.