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.
Now that the quality of coffee produced by the farmers in Bella Vista has consistently been good, we are ready to begin our Food Security Project here. Enrique, District Manager of the West Side stores, and Maya, Assistant Director of International Projects, travel to Bella Vista to touch base with the cooperative and get a concrete start on the project. On this trip, we conduct a group meeting/focus group interview with the 8 partners to discuss the project in more detail, get their perspectives, and gauge their enthusiasm. The farmers responded positively, since the project will ultimately help decrease the amount of money that they spend on food every week.
The farmers at Bella Vista have built new drying patios as part of the Harvest Quality Project, and Noah continues working with them to teach them only to pick red coffee cherries.
Noah conducts a coffee tasting with the farmers of the Bella Vista cooperative, to continue working with them on improving harvest quality. Think creates a contract with the producers in which they will receive a 33% raise to pick only the ripest fruit.
Noah travels back to Bella Vista to focus on our Harvest Quality Project with the farmers, asking the farmers to pick only ripe coffee and not unripe cherries.
At this point, the farmers here mainly want to be assured of a steady income for the crop. Our project begins with a plan to pay them monthly for the coffee that they will produce at the end of the year; paychecks will be sent to each producer every month for the next three years, ensuring a steady income for the farmers.
Noah, Director of Coffee and International Projects, travels to Mexico to learn more about Robusta Coffee. Here, he attends a Robusta Cupping Conference in Mexico City, and makes contact with Jorge Aguilar, coffee manager at CASFA. Jorge introduces Noah to the cooperative of farmers at Bella Vista.
To view our project data, click here.
To read our Bella Vista travel journal, click here.
To read about, Centro de Agroecología de San Francisco de Asís, our partner organization in Chiapas, click here.