Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lending a Hand

Lending a Hand

Coffee growers are made of sturdy stuff... The work is demanding. The hours are long. There's always something that needs doing no matter the time of year.

Farming has its rewards. It builds strong families, and it can be a healthy lifestyle, deeply rooted in nature. A new school for La VozBut it's often the only choice of rural inhabitants in developing countries to provide for their families.

Like family farmers everywhere, coffee growers are well aware that farming is a risky business, and some things are simply out of their control. A spell of bad weather can ruin a bountiful crop. And a turn in the market can render a great crop unprofitable.

For too many years now, the global commodity price for coffee has been at historic lows. An oversupply —a glut, really— of cheap, low-quality coffee from newly-planted growing regions has depressed the coffee market price under the point of profitability. While buyers of quality beans, like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, have a long tradition of paying farmers prices substantially above the commodity market price, the specialty grade beans we buy comprise just 5 to 10% of the total global crop.

Programs like Fair Trade help a lot of farmers who are members of coffee cooperatives, but a great many family farms remain out of their reach. To extend our own reach, we've partnered with Coffee Kids, Heifer International and Grounds for Health. And, where we can, we invest directly into coffee communities in need, with the goals of creating ever-greater self-sufficiency, and ever-improved coffee quality.

If we can help our producer partners to grow, harvest and process more coffee that meets our high standards, then we can buy more of that farmer's crop. And farmers that can develop a direct market for their quality coffee with roasters like us can better withstand stormy commodity market prices. We believe it's our responsibility to help steward the sustainability of our industry by helping coffee farmers, and their communities, develop a strong future.

We're committed to quality. We're committed to our growers, and to our relationships. Together, we'll help our farmers —our partners— weather the storm.

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