MOUNDRIDGE — Ashley and Julia Williams first met while on separate mission trips to Honduras in 2000, when neither had any idea how much the country would impact their lives and careers.
"In her diary, she made a note — 'another arrogant North American has arrived,'" Ashley said with a grin.
It did not take long before they fell in love, married and found themselves returning to Honduras from Moundridge to keep volunteering their time.
With the goal of building houses for the Hondurans to live in, Ashley began buying property. The piece of land he chose had vegetation that was unfamiliar to him.
"We accidentally bought a coffee farm," Ashley said.
He decided to hire workers to harvest the coffee and sold the beans at a local market. When the couple saw the potential to help more people by starting a farm to employ workers, they purchased land near Cerro Bueno, Honduras, in 2014.
"It is a pretty area," Julia said. "We're up high enough where it stays cooler."
Unlike the crops on the plains of the Midwest, coffee is farmed on hillsides.
"Coffee doesn't like flat ground," Ashley said. "If you've got coffee on flat ground, it can get overwatered and it really hurts it."
Ashley said they planned on just growing a basic coffee bean, but then he went to a coffee cupping and became interested in the entire process and how the farm could produce specialty coffee beans.
"We've learned how to grow the coffee, roast it, market it and ship it," Julia said.
The Williams named their operation Legacy Farms Coffee, with the plan that the profit made from selling to customers will be reinvested in community projects in Honduras and that churches and nonprofits in the United States could sell the coffee as a way to raise funds.
Resources from Legacy Farms Coffee are used to help build homes and provide tools, coffee plants and chickens to employees and their families.
"A lot of workers only average working nine months out of the year," Ashley explained.
He plans to keep Legacy Farms Coffee employees working year-round by using labor not only for planting and harvesting, but also roasting and shipping the coffee and farm improvements.
Growing banana plants on the farm serves to both provide the coffee plants with shade and give female employees work harvesting the banana bunches to sell.
The banana plants and fruit add potassium to an organic mix planted with the coffee that also consists of coffee cherries, coffee husks and caliandra tree leaves. Organic fertilizers and sprays are used, keeping the farm free of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.
"We mix sulfur, calcium and copper in with our organic mix and that serves as a fungicide," Ashley said.
It takes three years for coffee to produce a crop of beans, which are hand picked, weighed and placed in 1,000-gallon water tanks so bad beans can be removed. The coffee beans then undergo a fermentation process.
"It's definitely been a lot to learn, especially coming from not knowing anything about coffee," Julia said.
From one type of coffee bean, a host of flavors can be produced. Coffee beans can be processed, fermented, roasted and brewed in different ways, each of which results in a distinct taste.
"Right now, we grow one variety. Next year, we'll grow three varieties," Ashley said. "If you've got three different coffee beans, there's almost no limit to what you can do."
Legacy Farms Coffee will offer both green and roasted beans to customers. Ashley plans to return to Honduras while Julia stays here to receive the coffee he ships
"I'll roast it on Monday, then on Wednesday, I'll take it to the airport and by Friday, she'll have it in Oklahoma City," Ashley said.
The William's take their sons, Jonathan and Eli, with them when they both travel to Honduras.
"They've grasped that these people are very poor and work hard for what they do have," Julia said. "I hope it's given them an appreciation for what we do have in the United States."
The Williams reach out to the people of Honduras and give them what they need both now and in the future.
"The only hope for them is Jesus. The only hope for any of us is Jesus," Julia said.
For more information about Legacy Farms Coffee, visit https://legacyfarmscoffee.com or call 620-386-6238.