Community Partnerships

Every month we take coffee to support the Boulder Shelter and The Bridge House right here at home in Boulder, CO. The BHS and BH provide safe shelter, food, support services, and an avenue to self-sufficiency for homeless adults in our community. We believe that all people deserve the basic necessities of life, and the community in which we live is called to serve this purpose. We try to give generously here in Boulder, and there continues to be a strong need for help.

We are also proud supporters of the following local organizations:

Community Cycles

We support Community Cycles through by donating the coffee they need to fuel their team, volunteers, special events, and cycling enthusiasts! Community Cycles is a non-profit organization of bicycle enthusiasts. They recycle, repair, and refurbish donated bikes, sell used bikes and provide a welcoming space to learn about bicycle repair. Community Cycles educates the community about bicycle safety, and advocate for the use of bicycles as affordable, viable, and sustainable transportation and personal enjoyment in our community. Today, they are 1,750 members strong.

CAFE Livelihoods Program

Coop Coffees ally and Fair Trade supporter, Catholic Relief Services partnered in the “CAFE Livelihoods" program in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. The project entailed a series of technical and management training workshops over 4 years. Coop Coffees, along with social lender and ally Root Capital, facilitated several of these workshops.

The market for high quality, organic coffees continues to grow in North America. But due to lack of appropriate direct market connections, needed volumes and/or knowledge about quality requirements, many small-scale farmers are still left out of this market "boom".

The program was designed to support farmers with agricultural, quality control and administrative practices - taking the learning process from seed to final cup evaluation. Cooperative Coffees, along with our strategic financing ally Root Capital, have been invited as "external specialists" to collaborate with hands-on activities in our respective topics of expertise: understanding (err.. untangling) coffee markets in today's economy, improving quality and quality control practices, and financial management and planning, respectively.

The primary objectives of the program include: improving yields in the coffee fields and coffee quality in the final cup analysis; improving access to infrastructure; and improving overall management skills and financial planning with cooperative leadership. The challenges remain daunting and the objectives are ambitious... but at CoopCoffees we remain hopeful that our participation in this program can yield tangible, positive results for small-scale coffee farmers.

During our El Salvador “Quality tour” – a CoopCoffees delegation comprised of Mark Glenn of Conscious Coffees, Boulder, CO; Glenn Lathrop of Desert Sun Coffee Roasters, Durango, CO; TJ Semanchin of Kickapoo Coffee, Viroqua, WI; and Monika Firl of Cooperative Coffees – visited seven of the coffee farmer regions and held a collective quality cupping session with the farmers representatives from the 13 groups participating in the project.

“If you're prepared to buy from a private estate farm or private exporter, El Salvador seems to be filled with quality gems of all shapes and sizes,” says Mark Glenn of Conscious Coffees. “But within the framework of this project, we want to see what would it take for these small-scale producers to deliver the same level of quality and have access to be able to enjoy the same economical benefits?”

These experiences have broadened our collective understanding of the struggle small-scale coffee farmers must face on a daily basis. We heard the same story again and again in El Salvador: Without market and price stability, farmers are forced to sell their harvests however they can and that often means near their cost of production or even at a loss! For the cooperatives, that means a loss of potential product and that unstable pattern of available sales volumes wreaks havoc for the cooperative’s attempts to establish and maintain commercial partners. This in turn leads to a vicious cycle of abandoning production and quality improvements, which is of course detrimental to everyone along to production and marketing chain.

On The Ground Supports Sustainable Development

Our annual financial contributions to On The Ground support sustainable community development in farming regions across the world. OTG  accomplishs this mission by partnering with communities, donors and other NGOs in the most vulnerable regions of the world to build lasting community infrastructure. This infrastructure makes it possible for these communities to create real and meaningful prosperity for all their citizens. The work is based in the creation and maintenance of long-term relationships to form international community resilience.

Run Across the Congo

Run Across Congo program work also concentrates on the gender equality issues faced by coffee farming families in the region. Initiatives will enhance female ownership in the commodity that is the lifeblood of their communities. Through educational programs female farmers will become more empowered to take central roles in cooperatives and male farmers will come to better understand the inherent value of including women.

Mel, Owner of Conscious Coffees, participated in the all women running team, tackling 200 miles or 7 marathons in 7 days along the shores of Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo to raise awareness and funds for the challenges that these communities and in particular women face daily.  Run Across Congo is an opportunity to illuminate the depth of collaboration and cooperation across these communities. We believe that we all have a responsibility to create, maintain, and improve the world in which we live. In our line of work, we  am acutely aware of the fact that farmers in low-income countries work hard in sub-standard conditions to bring us luxury goods at a very affordable price. Every dollar we spend each day is a vote for how we want the world to be. Every dollar can help determine how people live, can impact the environment for better or worse, can promote war or peace or influence justice. This run allowed us to redirect some of those dollars – and more importantly a whole lot of attention – to these communities that we care passionately about.

Despite the resurgence in the coffee farming sectors, buying their crops under Fair Trade standards, while a great commitment, is not enough. We are doing more, funding and partnering with programs that are providing gender equality training in the farming communities so that families can shift to a more equal approach where the women of the family can own land, giving them greater security.

Farmer to Farmer Program

Coop Coffees has its feet on the ground with producer partners like never before! Thanks to the generous support of the USAID sponsored Farmer-to-Farmer Program, our roaster-members and staff have been enlisted to provide technical advice on topics of their expertise (quality control, specialty roasted coffee, market knowledge, navigating Fair Trade and organic certifications). After the first round of assignments that began in July 2009 and ended in January 2011, USAID renewed the grant for another set of roaster-to-farmer exchanges into 2012!

These exchanges have proven to be an excellent platform for both cultural exchange and personal development.  “We see this as a triple win-win opportunity,” says Monika Firl special projects manager. “Producer partners have appreciated the direct one on one support; roasters have returned more motivated than ever to be active promoters of Fair Trade and effective entrepreneurs; and all have grown from the cultural experience and on the ground challenges.”

The Farmer-to-Farmer Program was created in 1985 by the US Congress, and since then, over 12,000 volunteer assignments have been completed in over 80 countries, affecting some 1 million farmer families (learn more here).

Coop Coffees is part of one of the Farmer-to-Farmer special programs and support project grants via the USAID's collaborative offices at Weidemann Associates. During the delegations, teams of roasters meet with small-scale coffee farmers to discuss and explore the challenges and opportunities of working within the Fair Trade, organic, and specialty coffee markets The project has been developed in close collaboration with cooperatives and associations within Coop Coffees’ existing network of producers. These community-based producer organizations are vital to the economy and sustainability of the surrounding areas giving this project the potential to impact much larger groups of people as well.

The challenges facing small-scale farmers in today’s ecological and economic context remain daunting, but with appropriate intervention and well-targeted support, we are confident that tangible and sustainable results are possible. The Farmer-to-Farmer fund provides the kind of financial support that an organization like Coop Coffees, with its members and partners, can efficiently and effectively utilize to help bring these results to completion.

From August 2009 to January 2011, Coop Coffees completed 15 volunteer assignments in producer countries. We proposed a second round of assignments for the 2011-2012 season and received funding in March 2011.

Fighting Leaf Rust Disease with Roya Fund

One of the biggest challenges facing coffee farmers throughout Central and South America is La Roya (Leaf Rust disease). This naturally occurring fungus attacks the leaves. This can cause the next harvest flowers to drop prematurely, can kill the branch or the entire tree... thereby affecting not only the current crop but overall coffee yields for the next 2 to 5 years to come. Scientists have claimed La Roya to be one of the top five most devastational agricultural plagues in history and point to climate change as the root cause.

Almost every one of our Latin American producer partner groups have been affected considerably. Some long-standing cooperatives have been faced with discontinuing the function of the organization due to lack of coffee to harvest and the need to find other sources for income. According to the International Coffee Organization, Central American countries have estimated production losses due to coffee leaf rust from the past harvest: Guatemala (33.33%), Costa Rica (30-40%) and 15% - 25% in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. But despite the dire situation (Honduras declared a “State of Emergency” due to the fungus) our producer partners say little real support has come for small-scale, organic farmer groups. Instead, industry and government relief proposals are relying on an intensive, chemical package solution.

As a result, and following consultation with producer partners and members, Coop Coffees has initiated a special Roya Relief fund. These funds will be allocated to partners (in proportion to the volumes we purchase) to be applied to specific projects focused on re-planting, organic fertilization or intensive organic training programs, food security garden projects or other initiatives to generate additional family income. Simultaneously, we are exploring alternative “macro-initiatives” such as linking our purchase contracts to long-term credits, supporting greater farmer to farmer exchange of best organic practices and exploring external fund-raising via allied not-for profits organizations.