When you raise a cup of coffee to your lips, you probably never think about the faces or the labor behind what it took to get that coffee into your hands. We never did either until we decided to open a coffee business. As we began to read books on this industry, frankly, we were shocked by the amount of time and human effort it takes to produce specialty coffee. Now, when I’m grinding those beans and enjoying the smell of freshly roasted coffee, I often will pray, “Lord, thank you for those whose farms produced this coffee—and bless them!” We have a new found respect for the farmers.
A very exciting and long overdue development in the specialty coffee industry is the attention being paid to the many men and women who give their lives working on the farms that produce the coffee we so enjoy. For many years, if there was one word that best described the situation between the coffee growers and the buyers it was “exploitation.” Price and profit were the twin-engines that drove the industry, and, as a result, both human beings and environment were taken advantage of. In short, large profits were being enjoyed by a certain group in the coffee industry while the small farmers that grew and harvested the coffee languished in abstract poverty.
Thankfully, that is changing. In the last 20 years or so, a growing movement from various sectors is heightening awareness of the world of the injustice that historically has taken place within the coffee industry. Organizations like the Specialty Coffee Association of America, The National Coffee Association, Fair Trade, the Rain Forest Alliance, New Guinea Traders and others are working hard to improve the quality of life for these dedicated farmers and their communities, primarily making sure they are paid fair wages. What does “fair” mean? Usually about 3-5 times more than market prices, and, in the case of New Guinea Traders, about 40% higher. Below are excerpts taken right from the websites of three of these organizations, which will give you a small sample of who they are and what they’re about:
- The Fair Trade Federation “is an association of fair trade wholesalers, retailers, and producers whose members are committed to providing fair wages and good employment opportunities to economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers worldwide”
- “The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior”
- “New Guinea Traders' projects range from building tribal schools to free business education courses for highland Papua New Guineans. There are hopes that in the near future a project to maintain and/or reestablish shade trees on PNG coffee plantations could be developed and another program that endeavors to teach sustainable coffee husbandry could be pursued”
At Barbaric Bean Coffee Roasters, we want to do our part in saying “thank you” to the many men and women that labor on farms in lands we know hardly anything about, and will probably never meet. And we want to do it concrete ways. Here’s how:
- A percentage of the beans we buy will be “Fair Trade” and “Rain Forest” certified. This means that when a customer buys these specially labeled coffees, a portion of our profit will go to supporting these socially-conscious, environmentally-minded groups
- When you buy a pound of our Papua New Guinea Madan AA coffee, $1.00 will go to help subsidize two community development projects currently underway in that country: 1] a school on the plantation of the "Kinjibi Tribal School", which hosts about 120 students, primary school through about grade 6 (a lot of children sadly move out of school around that time, and wind up working: partly because there is no public school funding in PNG, and to continue your education costs more an more in school fees each year, and often families cannot afford to continue schooling very long). The school in the Wahgi River valley is about 10 miles from our Madan Processing Mill. And 2] The Madan Health Clinic, whose vision and purpose is to “bring the basic understanding of health in all aspects of physical, social, spiritual, economic, and environmental health and development of each individual families, and communities of Madan in the Anglimb sub district.”
This is exiting stuff, isn’t it? We will work with these organizations in our small corner of the globe to foster the cause of human fairness and justice “for all”. And you will too. Now, when you sip and savor our delicious coffee, you can also feel good that a portion of your dollars will help fund organizations fighting hard to provide farming communities with a higher standard of living, as well as promote land sustainability.