Blackburn Estate, Tanzania
Michael and Tina Gehrken own the Blackburn Estate near Oldeani in Northern Tanzania, this is the source of our wonderful Tanzania Footprint coffee.
Michael was born in 1952 in Paderborn, near Hannover in Germany. He always knew that the family owned a farm in Tanzania and one of his earliest childhood memories is of the Bishop of Moshi visiting his father in Germany – an exciting thing to see an African face in Germany during the 50’s!
Michaels first visit to East Africa was in 1971. ‘As a 19 year old student it was love at first sight’ Michael recalls. Although he briefly visited the farm, Michael soon had to return to Germany to begin his study of Economics at Berlin University. Supporting himself by travelling to East Germany with beef fillet which he used to trade for books and records, Michaels desire was always to return to Tanzania.
He moved to Tanzania in 1983 with the aim of renovating the family farm which, because of the economic and political situation at the time, was finding it difficult to succeed. At that time there was no generator, tractor or fridge and it was impossible to recognise the coffee trees because they were completely overgrown.
Tina moved to be with her husband in 1986, just after the birth of their first son.
Michael continues ‘We have always had coffee trees but, because of the countrys political situation, coffee was not economic for us until 1999 when the government allowed farmers to earn foreign currency for their export. We have been to export to our customers directly since 2005 and have since won several international awards.’
Michael and Tina are passionate about the environment, they don’t use any insecticides and minimise the use of mineral fertilisers, where possible they use biological controls and are very close to producing organic coffee. ‘Coffee farmers should try to restore the environment and replant indigenous species. Here 80% of our land is reserved for nature and we have planted thousands of indigenous trees to encourage birds, wildlife and beneficial insects.