Lucia Ortiz - Women's History Month Feature

As part of our commitment to celebrating Women's History Month and honoring the invaluable contributions of women in the coffee industry, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is proud to shine a spotlight on women producers who exemplify excellence and empowerment. Among the remarkable women we are highlighting is Lucia Ortiz, a direct trade partner whose dedication and passion for coffee production are truly inspiring. 

Recently, our team had the privilege of visiting Lucia and her farm, Finca Las Mercedes, during one of our sourcing trips. Through our direct partnership with Lucia, we not only source exceptional coffee but also support her efforts in empowering women on the farm and making a positive impact in her community. As we honor Lucia Ortiz and other women producers this month, we celebrate their resilience, leadership, and unwavering commitment to excellence in coffee.

Finca Las Mercedes

Nestled near Santiago de Maria in southeastern El Salvador, amidst the peaks of Cerro El Tigre, lies the illustrious Las Mercedes family of farms. With a history spanning over 125 years and five generations, Finca Las Mercedes has garnered acclaim as one of El Salvador's premier coffee producers.

Under the stewardship of Lucia Ortiz, the farm has embraced innovation while upholding its commitment to quality. Lucia's leadership and vision have led to the implementation of meticulous farming practices, including the segmentation of micro-lots and participation in prestigious competitions like the Cup of Excellence. Despite initial skepticism about the quality of coffee from the eastern region, Finca Las Mercedes shattered perceptions by winning top honors in the Cup of Excellence in 2006 and 2009, earning recognition as a beacon of excellence in El Salvador's coffee industry.

Beyond coffee production, Finca Las Mercedes remains deeply committed to its surrounding communities and environmental stewardship. The Ortiz family's philanthropic endeavors have led to the construction of essential infrastructure, including schools and health clinics, benefiting not only farm workers but also neighboring communities. Educational initiatives on health, first aid, and conservation underscore the farm's dedication to promoting well-being and environmental sustainability.

Moreover, Finca Las Mercedes prioritizes the welfare of its workers, providing medical care, quarterly rewards, and educational support. The premium price we pay for the coffee is used by Finca Las Mercedes to help provide this level of care and support.

Environmental conservation measures, such as responsible waste management and pesticide control, further demonstrate the farm's commitment to preserving natural resources and biodiversity.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, Lucia Ortiz's story serves as a poignant reminder of the invaluable contributions of women in shaping industries like coffee production. Through determination, empowerment, and a commitment to excellence, women like Lucia continue to inspire and pave the way for future generations in coffee. We had the pleasure of asking Lucia some questions to further highlight the remarkable work she does and what it means to be a women producer.

What is an advantage of being a woman in coffee you have experienced?

For Lucia, being a woman in coffee has opened doors to new markets, particularly those emphasizing coffee produced by women. This advantage has enabled her to secure significant accounts, driven by the shared goal of supporting women in the industry. Lucia underscores the importance of organizations like the IWCA (International Women's Coffee Alliance), which provide a supportive network within the coffee community. Through such alliances, women can uplift one another, share knowledge, and foster friendships that transcend borders.

What are some of the roles women have on your farm?

Lucia's journey at Finca Las Mercedes reflects a commitment to empowering women in various roles traditionally dominated by men. Initially tasked with supporting roles such as mill assistance and maintenance, women on the farm have progressively assumed more significant responsibilities. From pruning and fertilizing to overseeing groups independently, Lucia emphasizes the efficiency and capabilities of women in every aspect of coffee production. By providing specialized training and tools, they've ensured that women contribute equally to the farm's success.

What are you most proud of on your farm?

When asked about her proudest achievement on the farm, Lucia highlights the farm's core values, its dedicated workforce, and, of course, the quality of their coffee. Finca Las Mercedes holds the distinction of achieving the highest score ever recorded for El Salvador in the Cup of Excellence, a testament to their unwavering commitment to excellence. Yet, Lucia's true pride lies in her team, recognizing them as the most valuable asset of the farm.

What is your favorite cup/lot you have ever produced and why?

Lucia's affection for her craft shines through when discussing her favorite cup or lot produced on the farm—La Avila. This particular coffee holds a special place in her heart, as it was the first entry from Finca Las Mercedes in the Cup of Excellence in 2009. Achieving sixth place, La Avila represents not just exceptional flavor but also the culmination of dedication, love, and passion infused into every cup. 

*we are currently offering this lot! You can explore it here: La Avila

Who is a woman you are inspired by?

Lucia draws inspiration from the resilient women in her family's lineage. From her great-grandmother's entrepreneurial spirit to her grandmother's determination in managing a business in challenging circumstances, Lucia's heritage is steeped in tales of strength and resilience. She also pays homage to her great-grandmother, Mercedes Rivera de Ortiz, the founder of Finca Las Mercedes. Despite facing adversity, Mercedes preserved and expanded the legacy of the farm, leaving an indelible mark on Lucia's journey.


One way Lucia helps her farm workers know when cherries are ripe enough to pick is by providing nail polish in the color of ripe cherries. When asked about this Lucia shared:

"The story behind this idea was when I started in 2006 working at the farm and learning everything you need to know about the picking, I saw that a lot of my workers didn't know how to read or write that they were very visual so that’s when I decided in 2008 to start giving nail polish to the women’s so they understand about the importance on the color and ripping of the cherries that need to have, of course this was before brix and varietals etc but it work and they understood it so since then I keep giving them the nail polish every year. Of course I also learn from them sometimes is not only the color but also the softness of the cherries." - Lucia Ortiz

Avila Lot

Feb 29th 2024