Kelly Hartmann

Building better soils to cultivate quality coffee. 

Passion, patience and persistence are the precepts of Finca Sophia, and a way of life for the people who have built this farm into what it is today.

Finca Sophia is a labor of love nestled in volcanic soil, and as coffee farms go, it’s relatively new. It’s been wrought into productivity by the tireless labor of Kelly Hartmann. As the farm manager, Kelly’s primary role is to make sure the farm is run properly, but in reality his role takes on so much more.

The land that Finca Sophia inhabits has a rather ordinary history of being deforested. It was at the same time underutilized and overburdened with uses like livestock grazing. However, in 2008, a team of individuals from the United States and Panama teamed up to purchase, reforest and rework the land for the purpose of coffee production. The land is full of opportunity due to its geographical location, its altitude and its proximity to paved roads and infrastructure.

The land is full of opportunity due to its geographical location, it’s altitude and its proximity to paved roads and infrastructure.

Situated just nine miles from the Costa Rican border, Finca Sophia’s northern edge is La Amistad International Park, a protected land that spans the border between Panama and Costa Rica and is a major biodiversity resource not only on a regional scale but a global one.

The work of building better soils was not just a necessity for the cultivation of quality coffee, but also in the regional ethos of land care and improving biodiversity. When the property was purchased, some of the initial work was clearing the land of unnecessary weeds and planting 10,000 shade trees to prepare for future specialty coffee cultivation and quality improvement. They purchased this land because of a belief that they had an opportunity to create a quality of coffee that the world has never seen. It would just take time, attention and dedication.

This is where Kelly, a man of generational passion, patience and persistence comes in. Kelly was introduced as the farm manager but over just a short time with him it was revealed what this actually represents. Kelly is a third generation coffee farmer and youngest of five children. His father, Ratibor (Chicho), was a farmer on the fringe, employing farming practices that were nearly unheard of in his generation. In a time when coffee cultivation in Panama was based in high volume, bright sun and using every “-icide” product on the market, he employed a philosophy using shade trees, less dense planting, lower volumes, and an attitude towards cultivation that was more in harmony with the environment. Chicho prepared, without knowing it, the future of coffee farming practices using techniques from what we now call agroforestry and had the patience and persistence to see it through.  


Kelly is in charge of planning the building of better soil, plant nutrition, shade management, technical infrastructure and the management of the foreman, Angel, who oversees this work on the farm.

He understands the day to day of farm management and what it takes to keep projects on track, but he’s also adept at a high level understanding of the whole farm ecosystem and how to keep things flowing to make the day to day happen. Farm management is not a simple job and it’s also one that is in danger of having an unprecedented personnel shortage in the coming decades, another problem that Kelly is combatting even within his own family.

Globally, there is an impending “future” problem in the next generation of farmers. The farmers of yesteryear worked tirelessly to provide their children higher education and the dividend from that investment is a generation of people who live in the city, have more predictable jobs and often prefer not to return to rural life and agrarian lifestyles. Occasionally a story can be heard of the next generation being inspired by the accomplishments of their parents and the prestige and pride that can be gained from success in the cultivation of specialty coffee.

These stories are becoming fewer and farther between but Kelly’s work is not only producing award winning coffee, but is inspiring his only, teenage daughter to begin asking questions about how she can be involved in next harvest’s work. It’s Kelly’s hope that his work with Finca Sophia and some neighboring affiliated farms he manages keeps his daughter interested and able to see the value in a profession that has huge potential. 


The passion Kelly is trying to pass on is not one-sided. What really excites him is the idea of facilitating the work that goes into the experience in the cup for the end consumer.

He cares not just for the technical side of production but also the human side. Though he grew up around coffee production in his family, his first professional work after university was centered around technical equipment installation. He deeply understands the technical aspects of coffee production and is currently planning on repurposing a government subsidized irrigation system to be a fertigation system more in line with the specific needs of Finca Sophia.

Walking the land with Kelly makes it even more clear how tuned in he is to every little detail. He points out certain varieties of trees they’re experimenting with and directs our attention to specific plants that are experiencing new issues due to increased climate fluctuations. He believes the housing of farm workers who live on the farm full-time should be the same quality one would expect living in the city. These families are, after all, working and raising children on this property. Their intrinsic value to the management, cultivation and eventual cup quality of the coffee on the land can’t be understated in the least. He understands that the planning, execution and maintenance of the trail system on the farm is crucial for workers who cultivate land on nearly vertical slopes day in and day out.

Kelly Hartmann’s continuous smile, adventurous spirit and hospitable nature is indicative of the energy he brings to his work at Finca Sophia. 

If the climate cooperates and the next few years of harvest are as high quality as the last, Kelly’s work will help make Finca Sophia an economically sustainable coffee farm for years to come.

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