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Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
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CGAngie
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Posted Tue May 8, 2012, 12:00am
Subject: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care
by Emily Haworth

In this instalment, Emily gives us a unique look at the indigenous people of Panama - the Ngobe, and their involvement in getting fantastic coffees to all of us.
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harrisonm
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Posted Wed May 9, 2012, 7:16pm
Subject: Re: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

thanks fo wrriting this.

just wondering about this: "Less reliance on coffee certifications which is a bit of a check box exercise only large coffee producers can afford to do."

does this mean you're against coffee certifications? I can see the drawbacks, but haven't they been a positive force considering the large volume of international coffee trade? would we be better off without them?
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CoffeeFarmer
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Posted Thu May 10, 2012, 12:08am
Subject: Re: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

I am very concerned about most coffee certifications and so are my small farmer friends in Panama.   Shade grown does not necessarily mean a healthy canopy for wildlife.  Organic that is great but most very small poor farms are organic by default - they can not afford chemicals but they are not certified so can not compete in this market.  As for 'fair trade' I think that is a rather mis-leading term.  I would rather play in the real market - roast and sell my own beans at a higher margin and compete with my end product than sell green at marginal Fair Trade prices and let big players who have the Fair Trade sticker on their bags walk away with the sales.  

Honestly, I have no idea whether the world  would be a better place overall with or without.  For sure, some good has probably come of them.  For example, it is great to be able to get higher prices for your coffee if you are certified.  As a consumer I like to drink certified organic.  The problem is the benefits for producers are skewed towards large farmers.  Certifications involve a lot of paper work and cost such as annual flat rate subscription fees and very small players simply do not have these resources and proportionally it is a much higher slice of their revenue to pay.  It is a barrier to entry for small farmers.

When I browsed an up market supermarket coffee isle last time I was in the US, certifications were every where all over 99% of the coffee bags together with descriptions of the coffee cup.  Only one coffee bag actually had origin (country and region).   Certifications are really marketing tools.   They are powerful marketing tools and they are increasingly everywhere with very high consumer awareness.   As a former marketer and corporate exec, I am very wary of such devices and the consumer in me wants to cut the marketing hype and understand exactly what where and how for myself.
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diggi
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Posted Thu May 10, 2012, 4:00am
Subject: Re: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

Very enlightening.

harrisonm Said:

just wondering about this: "Less reliance on coffee certifications which is a bit of a check box exercise only large coffee producers can afford to do."

does this mean you're against coffee certifications? I can see the drawbacks, but haven't they been a positive force considering the large volume of international coffee trade? would we be better off without them?

Posted May 9, 2012 link

I didn't read that into that comment at all.  "less reliance" was appropriate wording IMO.  Certification isn't the true 'gold standard' for ethical coffee practices and I think Emily provided an interesting perspective.  Our ethics should not be dictated by companies using marketing strategies to offer certified products, but our community can push ethical practices by rewarding roasters who do this well.  For instance, I agree that a good benchmark is to have the farm/farmer listed on the bag.  Again, this isn't a gold standard, but appears to be a step in the right direction.
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harrisonm
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Posted Thu May 10, 2012, 6:12am
Subject: Re: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

OK, I was looking for an absolute. Not because I believe in absolutes, but today's reality is fair trade/organic certifications are kind of a breakthrough, because at least many consumers will habitually look for the label for some products in supermarkets. I certainly prefer them, but if there's doubt, or the expectation is getting to know the coffee farmer, people will give up and choose the cheaper option. Especially when we consider coffee is just one small part of the shopping list. I think however social media can help the trend of connecting goods to people.

Maybe a positive approach here would be to petition the fair trade organizations to require the grower's information on the product. That seems like a reasonable and fair step.
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diggi
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Posted Thu May 10, 2012, 6:40am
Subject: Re: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

harrisonm Said:

OK, I was looking for an absolute.

Posted May 10, 2012 link

......

One of the issues here is education.  I think Joe average has no clue about the international effects of the global coffee trade.  The fair trade/organic certifications certainly do help to start this conversation, and help inform the public about ethical practices.  Certainly this is a positive step forward.  I don't pretend to know more than this, on this very complicated/sensitive topic.
I do think, though, that this community should hold our suppliers to a higher standard than the masses.  I think we can move beyond the certification programs to reach the small farmers that wouldn't otherwise benefit from these types of programs.  This relatively sparse niche group cares more about coffee than the sum of the remaining population.  It is among the coffee enthusiasts where this type of change should start and hopefully spread.....
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BoldJava
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Posted Thu May 10, 2012, 8:20am
Subject: Re: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

Instead more emphasis on getting to know the farms, our practices, and even our pickers, all on a more personal level would help both us farmers and those who work on our farms...

Great article Emily.  We have traveled to Latin America 10 times and have seen most of Central America from the back of a chicken bus and a road less traveled.  Many of the visits were with an ecumenical organization that works with women's cooperatives on literacy, sewing, economic self-reliance, etc.   When we were in Boquete, we spent some time with a Ngobe foreman on the Ruiz finca.  Got to spend some time with the patriarch, Plenio <sp?>.  He was in his mid-80s then. How is he doing?

Most NAmer's haven't had the opportunity to see first-hand the conditions under which farmworkers labor in Latin America.  Your article helps raise that awareness and is an assist in the right direction.  Thanks much!

 
"On the trail for the goats' grail..."

Dave Borton
St Paul, MN
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CoffeeFarmer
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Posted Thu May 10, 2012, 2:28pm
Subject: Re: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

Thank you for the interest in the topic and discussion.  This in and of itself makes it worthwhile for me.   You are all on the cutting edge of coffee and you will lead  the next wave of the industry and it starts with conversations like these.   Understanding origin is the key to improving coffee quality as well as helping all sizes of farms who do a good job!  And as you point out getting to know some of the characters is a lot of fun. When I first moved into the farm old Sr Ruiz told me to keep the red Erythrina as he could see them from his window in bloom - I have.
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Julie
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Posted Fri May 11, 2012, 7:41am
Subject: Re: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

Indeed, the complexities of coffee certifications are immense (hence, much of my web site is devoted to try to explain them to consumers!). For those interested in the direct and indirect costs to farmers for some of the eco-certifications, I wrote an entire post about them:

How much does eco-certification cost?

I've always thought this system was backwards -- making farmers pay for doing the RIGHT thing, also raising their production costs, while some large corporate coffee roasters incur little "punishment" for purchasing from producers who provide cheap coffee through high-input methods. Of course, if consumers were really willing to pay a realistic price for sustainably-grown certified coffees, perhaps we wouldn't be having this conversation. But many average first-world coffee consumers are willing to foist the responsibility of environmental stewardship on third-world producers, but not bear much of the cost.

 
Julie Craves
Coffee & Conservation
http://www.coffeehabitat.com
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bittersweet101
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Posted Fri May 11, 2012, 1:02pm
Subject: Re: Coffee Pickers: Why We Should Care by Emily Haworth
 

Have read some of your articles, you really amazed me this again is a very good post very informative. Didnít know that coffee pickers have a very low salary so sad to hear if not for them I canít enjoy a cup of coffee the least thing I can do is thanking them. THANK YOU!
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