Monday, June 1, 2009

About the farmers we support

For generations, coffee was a source of pride for the farmers of San Fernando, Peru; but their rich beans only provided them with minimal income. This was because their farms were located on the side of the Andes Mountains, 6,000 feet above sea level, more than ten hours away from any major city. The producers had to transport their beans by donkey to the nearest regional centers of trade for their meager earnings.

In 1994, the farmers of San Fernando made the crucial decision to form a worker-owned cooperative. They received technical and logistical assistance of a larger umbrella cooperative called COCLA. And in 2004, when the Peruvian government finally finished building a road to their remote community, the farmers' chances for the economic viability of their efforts was greatly improved.

The farmers of Cooperativa San Fernando grow distinct heirloom varieties of Arabica coffee. The high altitude, climate, soil quality, and the attentive care given to the production gives this Peruvian coffee its unique flavor, not to mention a compelling story.

Independents Coffee Cooperative, a group of fair-trade coffee houses in Philadelphia, got connected with the farmers of San Fernando through the fair-trade roaster Equal Exchange. In 2006, Independents debuted the exclusive organic and fair-trade Independents Peruvian Select coffee to the Philadelphia market to a terrific reception. In 2007, two representatives from Cooperativa San Fernando visited Philadelphia and the Independents member shops. This was an incredibly unique opportunity for both sides...the coffee producer and the coffee purveyor and customer rarely if ever have the chance to meet and converse face to face.

From the conversations Independents had with the farmers of San Fernando, a need became apparent. Because of their damp climate, the Peruvian farmers were losing a portion of their crops when it came to the drying process. A solar powered drying facility would help them improve their production and profits. Independents pledged to raise $12,000 to support the project.

In 2008, members of the Independents Coffee Cooperative visited the remote San Fernando community. Staying in the homes of the farmers gave them a direct insight into the quality of life their and the impact of working as part of a fair-trade cooperative. They also got to see the new drying facility in operation, and pledged to continue supporting the community.

100% of the proceeds from the sales of art from Beans-N-Screens will support the dynamic community of San Fernando as they work to provide us with the special coffee they grow.