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Our Work in Nayarit

Taking Direct Trade One Step Further!

Small holders - Major Source

Small-holders are a major source of coffee in Mexico, Latin American countries, and all regions lying between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

Since coffee is a commodity second only to oil, small-holder farms cover a significant amount of environmentally sensitive land and small-holder farming practices are important contributors to biodiversity and habitat on a global scale. Unfortunately, there are large numbers of small-holders who do not have the educational or financial resources to earn consistent incomes from a commodity whose price is set by a worldwide auction system that is in the short term poorly connected to the quality of the product and completely disconnected from the cost of its production. Small-holders have few resources; they are at the far end of a chain of commercialization which favors those with the resources of large producers and large corporations. This does not lead to sustainability.

It was our preoccupation with environmental and economic sustainability (not to mention a good cup of coffee) that lead us to work with small-holder coffee producers in Mexico. We theorized that quality would be rewarded in the marketplace; thus we had to sell a portion of the harvest outside of the traditional commodity market and into an alternative market that specifically sought high quality coffee to enhance its market share. We began to help the growers to improve their coffee by rewarding quality, and we used premiums from the sale of the best coffee into the "specialty" market to compensate the costs of educating the producers and the increases in the cost of production that were the result of our quality program.

Over the past eight years we showed that our "quality" model significantly increased the income of the growers with whom we worked. We also showed that "quality" is an easily recognized point of agreement that we have been able to use to organize groups of interested growers. Our experience has been that the association of quality with a premium that directly and immediately affects one's income is more easily accepted by small-holders than is the association of stainability/responsibility with their long term incomes. Also, we have found that once small-holders are organized, they begin to enter the modern world and they better accept more advanced concepts like sustainability and social and environmental responsibility.

Perhaps one of our greatest strengths is our vertically integrated corporate structure with its strong roots in Nayarit, Mexico, where we have been working for more than 10 years to help growers to raise income through quality premiums. Our Mexican affiliate, Cafés Sustentables de Mexico, S.A. De C.V. (CSM), has its own dry mill and offers education, quality control and coffee processing services to the cooperatives with whom we work. CSM certifies the coffee quality of every bag that is exported.

In partnership with the Universidad Autonoma de Nayarit (UAN), and with help from the Coffee Quality Institute CQI and the Consejo Nayarita del Cafés (CONAYCAFE), we offer a coffee quality management course to members of the communities with whom we work. Thanks to help from the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and CQI, we were able to send the first coffee cuppers ever from Mexico to attend a formal cupping certification course at SCAA headquarters in Long Beach in 2003.

Posted on: Aug. 5, 2019, 4:23 p.m.