Barista Magazine

DEC 2017-JAN 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 96 of 107

against roya. We have a huge program which looks forward to how to stop being just a producer to become into a businessman," she says. "In Spanish we call it un cafi cultor empresario. Basically, we want them to run their farms as a company. So we work in their cost of pro- duction, keep a record of their fl owering, raining, payment of pickers, hours of work every day." These types of practical, logistical, and very astutely fi nancial services seem like they could inspire ruthlessness among producers as they scrutinize labor out and revenue in, and as they see their neighbors becoming more effi cient and, potentially, aggressive in the marketplace. Instead, it seems to simply nudge the entire group in a positive direction, as farmers come together to com- pare notes and form real, genuine bonds with their mates. "In my feeling, I do not see producers competing for a market," says Elkin. "I feel that every producer is where he wants to be. He who does not care about quality might only care about volume and selling fast, but oth- ers of us seek to have relationships of trust, loyalty, and transparency with people who support us to achieve that goal." The relationship piece is as big at the source between producers as it is between roasters or café owners: Cross-pollina- tion both literally and fi guratively at the farm level has been huge in the past fi ve years, especially in emerging or improving markets. For instance, the spread of coffee varieties from one producer to another has been immeasurably valuable as individual types and cultivars command top dollar and high demand. Seeds and seedlings of SL-28 and Geisha have changed hands throughout Costa Rica's West and Central Valleys; Pink Bourbon has been popping up throughout Colombia; and Ecuador's increasing Sidra crop is the direct result of trades, gifts, and collaborations. Processing, too, has become a big part of the network of trust and transparency producers are increasingly exchanging: At Genesis Micromill in the West Valley of Cos- ta Rica, mill owners Oscar and Olga Mendez have a long tradition of sharing informa- tion, patio space, and profi ts alike with the producers from whom they buy cherry or provide milling services. Rather than simply buy coffee and resell it under the Genesis mark, they insist on keeping each produc- er's lot separate and awarding them name recognition along with any price premiums the coffees command based on score. This is only one example of producers being sure to honor one another as individuals, businesspeople, and fellow actors in a long supply chain that serves to benefi t everyone, when the competition is healthy. (Healthy of course being the key word.) "A healthy amount of competition is good— it keeps everyone on their toes," Shauna says. "This is not super idealistic, it's just that the world needs more good ideas to take root. We want all the producers to be doing better in a region, because it works for them, it works for us, it works for our roaster partners. I don't wish to suggest that it's all unicorns and fairies, because that's not the nature of the business, but aiming to boost the level of profi tability that is available to the producers in the region that we're working can have a positive snowball effect." Even the Beatles had George Martin, and the world's best roasters and baristas have top-notch producers behind them. When we're lucky, the producers get to collaborate themselves, learn from each other, and make the beautiful music of coffee sound (well, taste) even better. From rising tides to amplifying everybody's levels, specialty coffee is definitely a whole lot better when there's a nice, tight harmony. 97

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