May 2012 – January 2017
We have been sourcing coffee from Jaime Lovo’s farm, Finca Santa Isabel, for five years. Our project here has been focused on the standard of living and working conditions for the workers on Jaime's farm. The areas we specifically wanted to address over the course of this project were the availability of food, access to healthcare, and adult literacy and education.
The first phase of our project here focused on food security; Jaime started by using funds from the project to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and grain and supplying his workers with free meals every day during working hours. He also started providing free meals to his workers and augmented the workday schedule so that they would have a period of time to take a break and eat.
The second condition of our project ensures that medical care would be available to all Finca Santa Isabel employees. This medical care is provided free of cost to employees, and in case of any incapacitating work-related injury, the employee in need is compensated for the amount he or she would have received during the harvest year. Jaime hired a medic who is available 24 hours a day to his workers, to ensure that any ill or injured worker will be quickly treated without incurring personal financial hardship. In addition, Jaime has taken extra steps in increasing the standard of living on his farm and has installed solar panels and a landline telephone in worker housing buildings. This way workers can have electricity in their living quarters and can call their families at any time.
Since establishing a consistent food supply, access to medical care, and improving worker housing the third phase of our project at Finca Santa Isabel has been focused on increasing adult literacy among farm workers. Funds from our project have been used to build a sheltered classroom, complete with electricity and learning materials to be used by anyone enrolled in school and affiliated with Finca Santa Isabel. Jaime has hired a full time teacher who offers classes in reading, writing and basic math to the workers every day. The farm workers and their children both attend school now. Where the adult farmers were previously illiterate, they are now able to read and write.
January 2013 – January 2017
Jorge Lagos’ farm, Finca Santa Teresa, is in Dipilto, Nicaragua. He has always treated his workers well; when we first started a relationship with him, he was rebuilding worker housing to include ventilation systems that would make the wood-burning kitchens safer. Since then, he also bought the farm next to his own to continue building worker houses, and also provides good wages and food to his farmers.
Recently, a federally funded company called Albamadera started major deforestation projects in the area in order to be able to export the lumber to Venezuela in exchange for cheap gas. This has had severe negative consequences for Jorge and his community; the area was once lush, but has begun to lose its crucial water supply- in 2016, the area ran dry for a week, which was previously unheard of. To combat this issue, Jorge purchased school supplies and traded them to local members of his community in exchange for pine tree saplings to start a major reforestation project in the area. This past June, we conducted a project to help plant 2,000 pine trees and help revitalize the local ecosystem in Dipilto.
December 2012 – November 2016
We began our relationship with the 8 farmers of the Bella Vista cooperative after attending the Robusta Cupping Conference, held in Mexico City in 2012. Initially, we began our relationship and project by providing the farmers here with consistent monthly paychecks. This was a big help, since the farmers had previously been living day-to-day on a tight budget, and did not have a steady source of income to support themselves with. Our agreement was to pay the farmers monthly for the coffee that they would produce at the end of the year, for three years. After establishing a steady flow of income for the farmers at Bella Vista, we began work with them to increase the quality of their harvest, teaching them to pick only ripe fruit and conducting tastings to concretely demonstrate the difference in taste between unripe and ripe coffee. This was important to developing a common understanding of the type of coffee we wanted to buy.
We were also interested in specifically working with this community for the Robusta coffee that they produce; despite being looked down on in the North American coffee market, the Robusta produced here is good quality and adds specific and unique notes to our blend. Additionally, Robusta is a more reasonable option for the farmers here; it grows well on this land, and resistant to pests and disease, which makes it hardier than Arabica. Most importantly, we wanted to work with the farmers of Bella Vista, without imposing the demands of foreign markets upon them. We felt, and still do feel, that there is room in the market today for a good quality Robusta, and are confident that what is produced in Bella Vista is a great fit.