More than 20 years ago, Dave Day, the founder of Growers First, witnessed first hand the economic and social injustices that fell upon small coffee growers in Mexico. Dave was involved in the coffee business at the time and discovered that, while coffee represents the largest cash crop and agricultural revenue stream in the world, small indigenous growers received a disproportionately low percentage of that revenue. This resulted in growers, their families and villages struggling in a subsistence life of poverty and constant need.
In 2001 Dave founded Growers First and began addressing inequities in agricultural markets and providing small growers the ability to work collectively and a means of achieving an overall better quality of life. It wasn’t simply giving money to poor farmers – it was something infinitely more valuable. It was hope. Hope for a way to better provide for their families over the long term. Hope for a better life for their children. Hope for a self-sustaining and even growing stream of revenue that could be passed on to, or expanded with their children. Through improved agronomical practices, over time, annual income of small coffee growers typically increases from 300% to 500% above previous levels – lifting them out of poverty for the first time in their lives.
Even with the improved farming capabilities, there remained many unmet needs amongst the families and the villages. Dave discovered interrelatedness amongst the various needs and designed the Growers First model to incorporate a more encompassing approach to meeting those other needs. In addition to the sustainable economic benefits of improved farming, this included social enterprise and equity through cooperative development, the multi-faceted benefits of environmentally sustainable practices, education and training along with health and wellness care. This approach was directed at the lowest rung on the supply chain ladder – the growers and their families – which in turn spread upward and outward synergistically to the community, village and regional areas that Growers First operates in.