the word "Gratitude" written in yellow on top of a blue square. Colorful cafe campesino-brand coffee mug in bottom right hand corner and hashtag coffee gratitude in the bottom left hand corner

“It Takes a Village,” and We Couldn’t be Happier with Ours

There is no better way for us to celebrate Thanksgiving than through gratitude.  Each week in November we will showcase a critical element in our supply chain for which we are IMMENSELY grateful. 

From the small-scale farmers who grow our coffee, to our customers who purchase it, to our staff who take great care in their jobs, to our overall community both at home and abroad who support  fair-trade, organic coffee – we are so grateful for everyone who makes Café Campesino happen.

What is happening at Café Campesino?

Over the summer, we quietly produced our first-ever impact report.   For years, we’ve been so busy doing the work of fair-trade, organic coffee, we’ve often forgotten to take a step back and assess what’s been happening. 

With the help of Cooperative Coffees, our green-coffee importer that has taken a leadership role in price transparency and farmer-oriented sourcing, we were able to distill some pretty interesting information.

Here’s what we’ve learned from our first-ever Impact Report

  • Since 1998, Café Campesino Inc. has purchased more than 2.6 million pounds of fair trade, organic coffee. 
  • We’ve made more than 55 trips to origin to visit coffee producers. 
  • We’ve maintained long-term trading relationships with farmer-owned cooperatives- at least five having lasted 14 years or longer. 
An excel-type list with 15 entries including country names, followed by cooperative names, followed by number of members for each cooperative, followed by years we've source coffee from each cooperative, followed by number of visits to each cooperative. The longest relationship is 18 years with Maya Vinic of Mexico, which has 340 farmer members. We've visited Maya Vinic 6 times.
An excerpt from our Impact Report that lists all of the farmer cooperatives we source coffee from. The list shows how many members are in each co-op, how long we’ve sourced from each co-op and how many times we’ve visited since 1998.
  • In 2018, $66,583 or our green coffee purchases were directed to fair trade and organic premiums, meaning farmers were either reinvesting in their own capacity to farm organically or in their ability to sustain their communities.
  • From 2017-2018, we directed an additional $15,000 to farmer-designed projects that helped farmers improve their organic farming techniques. 

2019 Work to Share

Not featured in our 2018 Impact Report are two other key developments we look forward to documenting in the future.

This year, we supported a Cooperative Coffees-led initiative that will one day allow small-scale farmers to measure the amount of carbon they sequester on their lands.  More on this to come in 2020, but the prospect of measuring the carbon sequestration power of a small-scale coffee farm is exciting to us. It could help create true incentives for regenerative agricultural practices.

Also this year, we took a price transparency pledge alongside coffee companies from around the world. We believe that making free-on-board (FOB) pricing available to the public is the first step of many to help correct a broken pricing structure in the specialty coffee industry.

You’re on the Team

Café Campesino doesn’t do this on its own.  We do it in partnership with you- coffee consumers who care- and with coffee producers who know how to improve their own livelihoods.  Together, we are making an impact where it matters. 

And we know time is of the essence.  Coffee yields have already been affected by changes in weather patterns.  Carbon emissions are continuing to warm the planet at a rapid pace.  Coffee farmers face – yet again- a pricing crisis that makes the prospect of farming untenable for future generations. 

But – together- we can do our part to find solutions.  We can pay for (and hopefully incentivize) regenerative agricultural practices.  We can ensure farmers get a minimum of $2.20 per pound- a price requested by the Small Producers Group nearly 2 years ago. We can hold businesses accountable – asking for price-and-volume transparency from some of our favorite coffee companies.

How We Say ‘Thanks’: 20% off All Coffees in November

As we propel toward a more sustainable hope for specialty coffee, we want to take a moment to express our gratitude for how far we’ve come.  As a small token or our appreciation, we are offering 20% off all roasted coffees purchased online in November. 

Simply use the code thanks20 at online checkout to redeem the discount. Shop Now.

Thank you so much for your support.  Share your coffee passion with friends.  And be ready to galvanize your friends and followers, because we’ve got a lot of work to do in the coming years to take our sustainable supply chain even further. 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”- Margaret Mead

PeachDish supports farmers.

Atlanta meal kit service puts sustainable farmers & food first.

PeachDish, a national meal kit service based in Atlanta, exists to enrich and nourish lives through good food. They have high standards. They are an industry leader in quality, creativity and customer service. They’re also building transparent, innovative, and wholesome food systems.  Every day, PeachDish strives to bring the best, sustainably-grown food to an audience that cares.

Better Farming means Better Food

President Judith Winfrey came to PeachDish with over a decade of sustainable agriculture experience. Therefore, she knows that nutrient-dense, organic food can make a difference in our bodies and our lives. Plus, she knows that good farming practices can benefit the environment. When we eat food that is grown with care and attention – without being doused in chemical inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) – we are showing that same care and attention to ourselves and our planet.

Judith Winfrey and Joe Reynolds examine a new crop of lettuce in the evening sun.
Joe Reynolds and Judith Winfrey at Love is Love Farm, a sustainable, Atlanta-based farm supplying PeachDish.

As a result, this positivity resonates through our lives and our community.  We’re more alive, more whole, more in-tune, more responsive, more available.  In short, we’re better people when we eat better food. This may sound too simplistic or pollyannaish to you. But think about it this way: food is the only thing we ever buy that literally becomes who we are.  It provides the building blocks for everything we are: our brain, our eyes, our skin, our muscles and our hearts.

Sustainable Farms Showcased at PeachDish

A farmer drops off produce at the PeachDish warehouse Monday morning, and it’s packed to go out that afternoon. When you have better ingredients, you cook better, eat better and live better. Understanding your food, from seed to table, is the best way to integrate nutrition and wellness throughout your life.

We’re proud that PeachDish includes Cafe Campesino in its meal kit options and also sources ingredients from other farmers and artisans we respect and admire. Farms like Love is Love Farm, Rise ‘N Shine, Urban Sprouts, Decimal Place Farm, and businesses like Beautiful Briny Sea and more.

Like us, PeachDish sources from businesses that are working to make positive social impact. We could not be prouder to work with them. And we consider them an ally in the good-food movement.

Learn more about PeachDish, or take the plunge! Order a meal kit produced by some of the South’s most sustainable farmers.

A couple follows a PeachDish recipe, cutting tomatoes and preparing other vegetables to cook for a meal.
Support the South’s leading sustainable farms and businesses by preparing PeachDish meals at home.
Bill's Business Model: Collaborate & "Do Unto Others".... 1

Bill Harris jumps with a group in Guatemala.

Bill Harris Jr. was honored with a lifetime achievement award in Americus, Georgia, on March 19, 2018. Photo by Scott Umstattd.

Most of us – if we were lucky – were taught the Golden Rule at home as we were growing up.  “Do unto others, as you would have done to you.”  But applying that rule to business is a concept many of us have learned from Bill Harris Jr.

Bill thinks of business a little differently than most.  Rather than solely generate wealth, a business can also be a tool to build relationships that ultimately make the world a better place.  It can be a conduit for creating win-wins between people.

While finding his footing in the coffee industry, Bill has built his businesses to do just that- move humbly and graciously through the world- charming and inspiring customers, staffers and suppliers with sincere, empathetic human-to-human interactions.  Bill has what Stephen Covey described as “an abundance mentality”- a perspective that believes there’s enough of everything- wealth, credit, power, recognition – to pass around. It’s the opposite of the scarcity mentality that suggests someone must lose for another to win.

Bill teaches us that if we open our minds and hearts to listen to the needs of others, while also pursuing our own life’s calling, there will be enough of everything to go around.

It’s his approach to business and his commitment to community – both at home and abroad – that was highlighted March 19, 2018, during the Americus-Sumter County Chamber of Commerce’s 98th annual awards ceremony where Bill was honored with the Sparky Reeves Lifetime Achievement award.

Bill's Business Model: Collaborate & "Do Unto Others".... 2Born and raised in Americus, Georgia, Bill is a 1980 graduate of Southland Academy and a 1984 graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology.  After working in finance with the Trust Company in Atlanta, Bill returned to Americus to work as CEO of Glover Foods, a family business.

After returning home, Bill began leading international volunteer trips with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village.  He vetted and organized groups of volunteer travelers to build homes all over the world. He even organized a “Botswana Bike & Build” where volunteers added a cycling component to their adventure- cycling hundreds of miles across Botswana to reach their Habitat build-site (fueled all the way by brother Lee’s cooking).

In 1997, he met a coffee farmer on a Habitat build in Guatemala.  He quickly understood that an indirect supply chain between the coffee farmer and the coffee consumer meant that very little money was getting back to the coffee farmer.  The farmer is responsible for the majority of the work that goes into producing a cup of coffee.   So, he founded Café Campesino in 1998 and imported a container of green coffee, which is about 40,000 pounds, directly from a farmer group in Guatemala with the intention of getting more money back to the small-scale coffee farmer.

As a smart, ambitious, young businessman would, he had made ample sales calls prior to purchasing the container to ensure that roasters would buy his newly imported coffee when it arrived.  But when the container landed, and he followed up on those calls, he realized that there had been a misunderstanding.  Coffee is often sold to roasters months-  even years – in advance, and the roasters who said they would buy his coffee were making commitments for next year’s harvest.  And this coffee would certainly not be fresh for next year.  He was stuck with a container of coffee.  He picked up odd-jobs to help pay for the container, including teaching Elderhostel visitors to Americus how to use the internet.  He retooled his plan.

Soon Bill would seek out other coffee companies who shared his world views to help him purchase containers of coffee.  He would only buy certified organic, fair trade coffees.  He would only buy coffee from small-scale farmer cooperatives where farmers would be co-owners of their own coffee businesses.

Meanwhile, folks in Americus wanted to drink Café Campesino’s coffee.  Bill needed to do more than import coffee to satisfy his local community.  He needed to roast it, too.

He hired a New Orleans-based company to roast on behalf of Café Campesino while he got set-up in Americus to roast locally.  About the same time, Bill had found a group of five other coffee companies that would help him purchase containers of coffee directly from small-scale farmers.

They organized into the world’s first importing cooperative of roasters, Cooperative Coffees.  Businesses that would have naturally been competitors, decided to work together to create win-wins along the coffee supply chain.   From its headquarters on Lamar St. in Americus, Cooperative Coffees has pulled together 20 members in the U.S. and Canada and proven that a collaborative business model can not only work but thrive.

Since it was founded in December 1999, Cooperative Coffees has imported more than 42 million pounds of certified organic, fair trade coffee directly from small-scale coffee farmers.

It has paid coffee farmers more than $75 million, and directly impacted remote villages in countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru.

Bill's Business Model: Collaborate & "Do Unto Others".... 3

Bill Harris helps negotiate the first contract with Maya Vinic coffee farmers’ cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico.

Café Campesino has also grown in the 20 years since it was founded.  It opened a coffee shop in Americus in 2008 and acquired a second roastery in Gainesville Fla., in 2009.  Between its two roasting locations, it roasts more than 200,000 pounds of coffee annually, importing all of its coffee through Cooperative Coffees.

Under Bill’s leadership, Café Campesino has also invested in the coffee retail experience- developing an internationally certified education center that trains professional baristas to brew and prepare coffee in Americus and relocating its coffee house into a historic building in downtown Americus.

Its roasting and coffee house operations have an estimated economic impact of more than $10 million annually in Americus and Sumter County.

But Bill didn’t stop at building two successful coffee businesses.  In 2014, he partnered with John Stovall and Clay Chester to open Americus Living, a local real estate company that redevelops rental property in historic downtown Americus.  In an effort to “thank” Charles Wheatley for his charitable donations to the Americus community, Americus Living renovated the original offices of Mr. Wheatley and opened a commercial space that now houses other local entrepreneurs including Mobile Glassblowing Studios and Tepuy Activewear.  In addition to that commercial space, the company has developed more than 40 rentals in Americus- focusing primarily on downtown, historic properties.

If Bill took credit for his successes, he would say that he is standing on the shoulders of giants- people like Charles Wheatley, Millard Fuller, Clarence Jordan and his own parents.  But Bill would probably not take credit for these successes.  He would remind us these were all collaborative experiences.  “It’s not about me.  It’s about all of us,” he would say. “We have done this together.”

But it takes a giant to pick up the baton of giants.   And it takes a truly remarkable human to inspire others to become their best selves.  With his intellect, boundless optimism and relentless commitment to use business “as a force for good,” Bill Harris Jr. continues to inspire nearly everyone he meets.  His legacy will endure not only for the citizens of Americus and Sumter County, but for thousands of others around the world.  We are grateful for his leadership.

Learn more about Cooperative Coffees’s story in this short video.

The farmers of Maya Vinic continue to supply us with coffee.  Purchase it here.

An Update: Our Groundwork for Sustainability 4

With big business buying up key roasters in specialty coffee, the heat to survive is turned up.  But long before Blue Bottle was purchased by Nestle or majority shares of Stumptown and Intellegentsia were sold to Luxembourg-based, JAB Holdings, we were planning Café Campesino’s road map to 2040.

Read more

Oscar Omar Alonzo Aguilar Cual Bicicleta Coop Coffees

This piece was written by Monika Firl, director of sustainability with Cooperative Coffees, the green coffee importing cooperative of which Cafe Campesino is a part-owner. 

Read more

7 internationally recognized principles to help guide cooperative business practices 5
Cooperative Coffees

“Models matter,” a long-time wholesale customer recently told us. We had asked her the question: “Why do you keep buying coffee from us?”

In the face of so much competition nowadays- where local coffee roasters are popping up in small-towns across the U.S., coffee quality is getting increasingly better across-the-board and the term ‘Fair Trade’ has (in many ways) been co-opted to mean far less than what the alternative trade movement once stood for, we wanted to know why she kept buying from us.

She replied, “Models matter. You guys do what you say do. You are truly partnered with the farmers, and you tell the truth.”

Read more

Crowdfunding meets Trade Finance 6
Lend money to a farmer who produces your cup of coffee. Root Capital agricultural investorFinding affordable financing is one of the greatest challenges facing small-scale farmers. Like any business, farmer co-ops need access to capital until money starts coming in from their sales. Farmers need to make improvements to their land, investments in their crops and purchases that keep their families fed and children healthy.

Some organizations will lend to small-farmer cooperatives, even though those loans are seen as highly risky by finance institutions. Nonprofit social investment funds like Cambridge, MA-based Root Capital lend to farmer groups at manageable interest rates, but all too often, farmer groups get loans from institutions in their home countries where interest rates can be as high as 25 percent.

Interest rates as high as 25 percent will forever keep farmers in a cycle of poverty.

Read more