If you roam around the bay area’s specialty cafes, you’ll have the chance to find an 8$ pour over of a [at times questionable] specialty coffee. Meanwhile, in Colombia, farmers as stuck in a poverty loop selling their coffees 20% bellow margin.We’ve spent about 4 years traveling around the country, researching and interviewing successful and struggling farmers, to understand the current chain, exploring all distributions opportunities and the answer has multiple folds.
The majority of Colombian coffee farmers rely heavily on cooperatives to sell their coffees, which unfortunately follows market pricing. The price is influenced by worldwide production, the more coffee is produced by industrialized countries, the lower the price of sell, and while this is overly simplified, there are some other more complex financial mechanics at play. This causes them to overexploit their lands, lowering the production quality and forcing them to switch to unsustainable practices just to make ends meet.
And what about quality?
Specialty coffee cannot be sold at the same price than other coffees. It requires more work, investment and risk-taking thus needs to have a trading platform in place that skips cooperatives (and other middle-men). While there are a couple of renowned ones but our research shows that they are not working or misused.
As we further researched deeper into other options that Colombian farmers have to get away from the current broken model. We kept looking to direct trade for answers and although this sounds like a great trade option it still involves many middle pieces and not as direct as the name claims. Direct trade still involves an exporter a mediator a middle man between the farmer, exporter and the coffee roasting company- Which is not so direct. That transparent line of Direct trade is very difficult to achieve and there are many blind spots in the transaction process as it requires spending a lot of time on the farm, travel and education to source the right coffees.
Progeny is working really hard to make this platform more than just a “trade” platform. We’re currently working with the farmers and providing them with free education and technical agricultural support on new techniques to improve their farming methods and processes.
By assisting farmers to reach the specialty coffee score (80 and above), we are able to offer them the option to export through our distribution platform and showcase their coffees through our customers. We currently only offer this platform to coffees that reach 84 and above (Excellence Specialty Coffee) to certify the quality, but as our processes improve and our clientele grows we will also provide coffees from farmers that did not quite make to the excellence level, giving a chance for every farmer to succeed.
When the farmers sell their coffees to us, instead of relying on the market price that unfairly fluctuates, we give them a set price per score. And we’ve grown exponentially in 2018 and have already doubled the income of more than 25 farmers.
We dream to go beyond the bean, beyond the farm, by helping the farming families and their communities by building school facilities, hold public agriculture classes and provide special funding for new tools, and possibly a new life.
"It's more than just a coffee cup, it's about everything, even before the bean was ever a bean."