As we sat there and celebrated little Emerson's Birthday, I thought about our day with Rosa and her family and the reality of life as a small-scale coffee farmer.
In the past six months, I have gone from knowing absolutely nothing about specialty coffee to, now, visiting coffee farms and seeing what life is truly like for the majority of coffee farmers. Since my early days in college I have enjoyed two or three cups of coffee per day, but I never really knew much about the industry. I started drinking Farmers First Coffee one year ago and I have always known that "fair" trade is not all its cracked up to be, but in the past two weeks, I have seen proof.
Earlier that morning Robert and Rosa were sorting through receipts and paperwork detailing the payment she had received for her coffee in 2018. We added up the payments from the cooperative, the "fair" trade bonus, and the organic bonus. The numbers were astonishing: they were just too low. The price of coffee had indeed dropped even further compared to the previous year. A feeling of irritation overcame the room, but we were not surprised. So...with the bitter taste of "fair" trade still fresh on our minds, we began to calculate Rosa's Farmers First bonus from 2018.
The transparency scorecard above shows the market price that Rosa was paid by her cooperative, and the percentage that her income was increased through the Farmer's First bonus.
Something powerful about the Farmers First bonus is that the Farmer can choose to do whatever they want with the money. We are not a patriarchal group. The farmers that partner with us know exactly what they need. We are simply paying them what they deserve, a truly fair trade. We have an authentic mission to pay the farmers fairly. We put the farmers first.
Rosa and her family were very happy with their bonus and decided to purchase a small cake for Emerson's sixth birthday to celebrate. Once we arrived to Rosa's home, we shared a meal and began to sing "happy birthday" as Emerson's cake was brought into the room. He was ecstatic and began grabbing at the chocolate cake almost immediately. As the celebration continued, I felt extremely blessed to have shared this moment with Rosa and her family. I saw just how selfless the Llocla family was. Instead of getting something for herself, Rosa decided to purchase her six-year-old son a cake to give him a truly happy birthday.
Throughout my life, I have noticed that those with the least give the most. In the past six months, I have visited the first five partner-farmers and the same rings true. The farmers that we partner with are kindhearted, hardworking individuals that simply want to continue the family tradition of growing coffee. With coffee being the number one consumed drink in America, ask yourself a question: why not drink a cup of coffee that creates an authentic impact in the life of the farmer who grew that coffee?