Plantations and Cooperatives
I love to hear from people who have coffee on their mind. I get wonderful communiques and sometimes , real good leads on a great coffee that always has a story attached. The coffee traveler is open to the spirits. This has its merits . The road has many stories . Every road does. Which ones you carry home with you are not random accidents of fate, they are manifestations of your priorities, your focus and you might say, that a bit of your unconscious is in play as well. So here is one story that came to me and my reply.
I recently visited Guatemala on a birding tour. One of our destinations was the beautiful Los Andes Private Nature Reserve. There, I spoke with the president, James E. Hazard, and learned of his family coffee and tea estate. I thought of Thanksgiving when he discussed the earth friendly and worker friendly practices implemented at the plantation. When I asked if he had extra capacity for additional customers, he assured me that he did. One of his customers is Starbucks(boo). If you would like to see more about the organization, the website is www.andescloudforest.org. And most importantly, the coffee is very good. If you have any questions, feel free to email or call me at work.
Thanks for the thought James. We have been working with the same Guatemalan cooperative of 1600 Mayan producers since 1998. I think it is best to not dilute my purchases as then they would have to go looking for another buyer and have poor access to the world market. , I tend to shy away from buying from plantation owners in general, not because they are bad people as much as that they are the stewards of a bad system. Remember the slave owners in the South 150 years ago were “plantation” owners too. They were not as benevolent as some current coffee plantation owners, but you can bet that most who work on plantations as laborers dont send their children to university.
Plantations that house their laborers create an indentured slave situation where the home is attached to the job. This is frightening to families because it is a way that owners and managers control behavior. Fear is the general rule on plantations even when it looks like the workers are happy in a benevolent environment. .
Certainly, with todays problematic climate , farmers are promoting how environmental friendly they are , and how their shade trees are great for the planet and they are right in that regard, but the human factor is often masked by this environmental promotion.. For example, Farmers who join together to form producer cooperatives are empowered by their numbers and the social benefits that they can persue as a community that could not be achieved otherwise . There is hope in the cooperative Fair Trade movement . Plantation workers by contrast , may earn $2.00-$3.00 dollars per day at best and they never get out of their poverty.
That is not to say that this particular plantation you just visited is a bad place with evil overlords. If it was , you would have seen it and not considered communicating with me. Their website attests to my earlier comment that “good people can be sustaining a bad system ” The plantation you visited has come a long way from how it must have been just 20 years ago when few cared or even knew about the plight of the people who grow the coffees we love. The Hazard Family is to be congratulated for progressive approach they are preparing for.
So thanks for the thoughts. I hope this e mail finds you in good spirits after your overseas trip, and that you are happy to be home again