Conversations at Origin
by Amanda Eastwood, Origin Specialist
Over the course of the first few weeks of summer, a small group of the THRIVE origin team, including myself, had the opportunity to spend intentional time with several coffee farmers across three different countries.
Some of these farmers have worked in collaboration with THRIVE Farmers since the beginning, while others are contributing coffee to our system for the first time this harvest cycle. Among those were my friends and neighbors in Nicaragua, where I live and work.
For Central American coffee farmers, home is where life happens and community gathers. We had the privilege of joining our farmers around their tables or on their porches for coffee (produced by their very own hands, of course!) and conversation. These meetings allow us to discuss their journeys and dreams for the future.
We asked questions like, ‘Given the many challenges a coffee farmer experiences, why do you choose to continue to produce coffee?’ or ‘what do you dream of achieving as a result of your coffee business?’ and ‘tell me the story of your family and how you arrived to where you are today with your coffee farm/mill?’ among others.
The responses were compelling, sincere, and, at times, even surprising. Among the most common responses we heard things like, “Well, I continue to produce coffee because it’s what I know how to do. It’s in my blood! Coffee is life.” Or, “I dream of peace of mind when I and stop worrying about my debts. THRIVE has helped me to sleep at night because we are in a long-term relationship and the price they pay me is sustainable year after year.”
One answer we heard over and over that never ceased to provoke a smile was, “As a result of farming coffee I hope to save enough money to take my wife on vacation. I want to go some place outside of the country. Yeah, I dream of seeing a new country and taking my wife on vacation there.”
Among mid-larger producers working with THRIVE Farmers, we were humbled to hear heart-felt explanations like, “As a result of my coffee business I hope to have the opportunity to help THRIVE connect with more smallholder farmers.” And, “I want to see others in my community, in my country produce more and better quality coffee. This has to be about the producing community as a whole; not just me.”
As a team we spoke with nearly 20 different farmers and each conversation was as valuable and eye-opening as the last. The human encounter and the willingness to be vulnerable with one another was a pleasant, even inspiring reminder to be bold enough to ask and then, in turn, take time to listen. This practice carries much further than our work in coffee. Try it in your own life. In doing so, you may be amazed and surprised at what history, personal anecdotes, and lessons may lie behind the surface.