We’re often asked whether our coffee is “fair trade”. The shortest answer to that question is no. The simplest answer is that our coffee goes beyond fair. Here’s what we mean:
The “Fair Trade” movement was largely responsible for bringing ethical concerns about the coffee industry and the welfare of coffee farmers into the national consciousness. Consumers for the first time wanted to know where their coffee came from and whether or not the farmers that grew it were being treated fairly. Growers First was started out of the same concern for the welfare of the farmer, and is in this sense indebted to Fair Trade. So why do we say our coffee goes beyond fair?
To begin with, we have streamlined our supply chain to ensure our farmers are being paid fairly. Our farmers are organized into cooperatives and we purchase directly from the cooperative. The cooperative diffuses costs for the farmers and increases their selling power. A percentage of the co-op’s revenues are shared within the collective and directed toward agronomic or community efforts agreed upon by the co-op members.
By purchasing directly from our farmers through the co-op structure, coyotes and other middlemen are removed from the supply chain and we are able to ensure that our farmers receive the maximum value for their crop. Growers First directly imports their coffee, sends it to our roasters, and distributes the packaged product to retailers and directly to consumers.
The supply chain, however, only tells half of the story. We say that our coffee goes beyond fair because on top of ensuring our farmers receive the maximum value for their crop, we are committed to developing relationships with our farmers. We know who we are buying from, and they know us and our roasters. This is beneficial in several ways.
First, the farmers are able to learn about the demands and desires of the market they are selling to. Growing coffee in isolation, many farmers are unaware of the how their coffee is processed, roasted, and consumed. With a basic understanding these factors, farmers are able to adjust their growing practices to improve the quality and marketability of their crop.
Second, both our farmers and roasters are able to increase profits when they are connected via relationship. Roasters and suppliers receive a higher value for the final product when they can provide a direct connection to the farmers that grew their coffee and can demonstrate that their product is substantially benefiting those farmers. This premium is passed on to the farmers, as the increased demand for their coffee in the United States is able to attenuate the volatility of the international coffee market. Regardless of how high or low the market sets the price of coffee, farmers know that they have a direct connection to consumers and can negotiate a fair price that still benefits roasters and suppliers in the States.
You as the consumer get to participate in that relationship. By scanning a QR code on the back of each bag of Growers First Coffee, you can follow the progress of our farmers, getting updates on featured families and communities. We call this Traceable-Transformation TM, and it provides a window into the lives of these remote farmers.
Finally, and most importantly, our relationship with our farmers enables the Growers First Foundation, the non-profit arm of our organization, to implement programs that empower farmers to improve their coffee businesses, their lives, and their communities. The ultimate goal of Growers First is to empower farmers to take control of their own transformation. The Growers First Foundation uses the Ten Seeds Technique, developed by MAP International, to help communities identify and address their own needs and then partners with them, providing education and resources to help farmers reach their goals. Among the many programs the Foundation facilitates and helps implement are:
When you buy Growers First coffee, your purchase not only allows us to give our farmers the maximum value for their crop through the co-op structure and our streamlined supply chain, but it also enables the Growers First Foundation to implement programs that transform and empower the farmers and communities that grew your coffee. We think that’s beyond fair.