The great majority of specialty coffee we enjoy is produced by smallholder coffee farmers around the world who farm on less than 5 acres of land. Core to the mission of THRIVE Farmers is reaching these smallholder farmers and bringing them to a market that never was available to them before. They are the foundation of THRIVE Farmers and our goal will be to grow this segment more than any other over time.
Franklin Garbanzo, a THRIVE Farmer from La Violeta Costa Rica, is a pioneer in developing and sharing sustainable farming practices with his local community of farmers. Franklin Garbanzo’s farm is representative of a small farmer working through THRIVE’s farmer-direct model.
Franklin Garbanzo is a coffee visionary. To say anything less would not do this man justice. We all know unsung heroes in our various walks of life. Franklin “Franco” Garbanzo is the unsung hero of a small community in the mountains of Tarrazu, Costa Rica. Nestled on top of a little mountain surrounded by an immense valley carpeted with lush dark green coffee plants sits La Violeta, a small “beneficio” or micro-mill. This mill was started by 14 farmers in the valley of La Violeta 10 years ago. Franklin remembers his first night processing the coffee. “We had to process at night in the cold, wet and mud because the new machine was using all of the electricity available to the village,” he said. From that day forward, these 14 farmers led by Franklin now produce and process some of the finest coffee in the Tarrazu region. The risk taken and forward-thinking of this small group of farmers trying to gain control of their coffee rather than just selling the fruit serves as an inspiration.
But something was missing, Franco worried that these 14 farmers were still victims to the ups and downs of the coffee market. He understood that the only way to find real value for their coffee was to connect with the retail market. Until THRIVE Farmers, that was not possible, but today Franco and his fellow farmers have taken their innovation to a new level. Franco and the farmers of La Violeta are now the leaders of the THRIVE Farmers movement in Frailes de Desamparados, Tarrazu. They are now able to take control of their coffee all the way to market.
With a contagious smile and positive energy that drives his love of all things coffee, Franco’s knowledge of his craft is from the plant to the cup. In his own words, “When you’re brewing the coffee, oh the smell it wakes me and then I taste it, oh it’s like caramel, it’s fruity, it’s chocolatey, mamma mía, I need it during the day because it keeps me going, it’s like caramel, it’s chocolatey, by just brewing it, wow, what a coffee.” (Huge smile included!)
Independent coffee farmer, Alejandro Garcia Villalobos is the patriarch of Finca Santa Marta that has 7 hectares in production of coffee. Santa Marta Estate Coffee is grown in the mountains of Costa Rica and is situated in high elevations found near the Cloud Forest.
The farm had its challenges in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s as a result of the falling coffee market.
Seventy-five year old Alejandro Garcia Villalobos was raised a coffee farmer. His “finca” was the first farm in the THRIVE system. He also produces bananas, plantains, lemons, oranges and mangos – flavor notes that translate to his coffee.
With the vision of Alejandro and his family, the farm was completely overhauled. The family vertically integrated the processes from seed to cup using sustainable farming practices. The farm has been recognized by the Food and Agricultural Administration of the United Nations for its innovative initiatives in sustainable production of coffee.
The quality of Alejandro’s 2013 crop is a perfect example of the impact the THRIVE system can provide to farmers. THRIVE’s best practices help farmers impact quality and maximize value from their crop. After implementing sustainable farming practices and investing back into his crop, Alejandro’s quality level increased from the prior harvest year. Today, his coffee is highly regarding in the roaster world. In fact, Patrick Burns of Palace Coffee Company (Canyon, TX) placed third overall in this Fall’s 2013 Big Central Championship, using Alejandro’s coffee.
Born in Concepción Pinula to Marta Solares and Salomon Gonzalez, Vinicio González came from a heritage of coffee. His parents were founders of the Association of Producers for Concepción Pinula. Vinicio González had no formal education growing up. He served in the military in Guatemala in 1982-1983, and from that experience developed a vision for his community that included a world outside Guatemala. He moved to 1985 to Bakersfield, CA to work in agriculture and returned to his hometown of Concepción Pinula to provide transportation services with a truck he was able to buy in 1986 through money saved working in the States.
About the time of his return to Guatemala in 1987, he started taking care of his parents’ coffee, and later became a leader in the coffee community of Concepción Pinula. As the next generation continues to build on the hard work of their parents, Vinicio is now the president of the Association of Producers that his parents founded. Vincio’s experience living in the U.S. was a driving force in understanding that the real value of coffee is found in a direct relationship to the consumer. His vision was integral in the community’s partnership with THRIVE Farmers.