Barista Magazine

DEC 2018 - JAN 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 21 of 107

F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S FOOD 4 FARMERS' INTENSE FOCUS ON ELIMINATING HUNGER IN THE COFFEELANDS IN 2010, RICK PEYSER WAS TRAVELING in Matagalpa, Nicara- gua, on a monitoring and evaluation trip for his then employer, Keurig Green Mountain (KGM). He was already quite familiar with the region: In 2007, he had facilitated KGM's support of a study by the In- ternational Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) on food security in the coffeelands of Latin America. The fi nal report contained startling facts about hunger in coffee-producing areas—for example: "Even producers who receive fair-trade premiums suffer a period of food insecurity ranging from one to seven months of the year—every year." Because coffee is an annual crop, the report observed, its proceeds don't sustain farmers year-round, and as a result they often suffer long periods of hunger. These are known as los meses fl acos in Latin America, or "the thin months"; this phenomenon was the subject of a 2011 documentary by KGM and other partners called "After the Harvest," which is available on YouTube. On that visit in 2010, Rick was struck by an idea while having dinner with friend and colleague Marcela Pino. "I realized that despite the very high incidence of chronic seasonal food insecurity among small-scale coffee-farming families in Central America, the specialty-coffee industry had no nonprofi t organization 100 percent focused on this serious challenge," Rick says. "I felt this needed to change." Within months, Rick, Marcela, and cofounder Janice Nadworny formed Food 4 Farmers, a Vermont nonprofi t organization focused on food security in the coffeelands. The organization currently works in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Colombia. According to Janice, who serves as codirector alongside Marcela, "We work with families to grow healthy food on and around coffee farms, or fi nd other income streams to supplement coffee income so they can afford nutritious food throughout the year." Food 4 Farmers takes its name from the four pillars of food security outlined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Na- tions: availability, access, utilization, and stability. In each community and coffee-producing organization where Food 4 Farmers operates, the organization works together with the groups to identify key caus- es of food insecurity, and then co-create solutions that the co-ops and farming associations can implement themselves. The most common food-security solutions Food 4 Farmers helps implement for coffee-farming families include developing family gardens and improving soil health using homemade organic compost and pesticides; generating mitigation strategies for soil erosion; and developing community-appropriate technologies for a reliable, clean water supply. With the family gardens, families eat the organic food they grow and sell the extra to their neighbors; in some cases they'll start a local farmers market sponsored by the co-op to sell to the larg- er community. Additionally, Food 4 Farmers frequently supports its partners in keeping bees, which provide them with honey they can sell in their community and use in their homes to replace processed sugar. A key strategy for Food 4 Farmers in all of its efforts in cof- fee-growing communities, Janice explains, is to understand the needs of its community partners so that they can deliver successful solu- tions. "We consider ourselves consultants to our community part- ners—we work for them," she says. "Together we design the program, monitoring tools, and educational workshops. It's no use if we support a school-gardens program or honey-production project and two years later everything has been abandoned." The majority of Food 4 Farmers' funding comes from the coffee com- munity, particularly roasters, importers, and retailers, and its largest donors include Philz Coffee, Camano Island Roasters, and InterAmeri- can Coffee, all of which invest in strategic, longer-term initiatives. Philz, for example, established the Green Bean Sourcing Commitment, which gives $0.05 per every pound of green coffee purchased to organizations that strengthen the supply chain, including Food 4 Farmers. "As I start- ed digging deep into their work, I knew we were a match," says Andi Trindle Mersch, director of coffee and sustainability for Philz. "Food 4 Farmers' work approach is about local community engagement to drive solutions, and Philz grows our stores in the same way." That engagement in coffee-growing communities is what has led many industry companies to support the group. Maureen McHugh, vice pres- ident of Equator Coffees & Teas, says Equator was excited to support Food 4 Farmers' use of education as a way to prime farmers for success. "Food 4 Farmers delivers true value to coffee-producing communities through unique, yet accessible educational workshops designed to help mitigate food insecurity," says Maureen. "Food 4 Farmers' impact is measurable and sustainable, and we are proud to support it." The modern coffee industry faces a number of severe challenges in addition to food security, from market volatility to the impacts of climate change to youth migration—all of which are intertwined. Rick Peyser says that given the vast scope of challenges in the coffee world, it may be hard to see how a small NGO like Food 4 Farmers has had an impact—yet it has. "Many farming families in Food 4 Farmers programs are no longer 100 percent dependent upon coffee for their livelihoods, and are deriving at least part of their income from other agricultural products," Rick says. "This additional income has enabled them to reduce or eliminate the thin months, and invest in the needs of their families and their coffee." —Chris Ryan Food 4 Farmers is a Vermont-based nonprofi t focused on food security in the coff eelands. PHOTOS COURTESY FOOD 4 FARMERS 22 barista magazine

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