The THRIVE Farmers platform gives farmers direct access to the marketplace for their coffee. Importantly, the farmer can participate economically at the end of the chain, closest to the consumer, where their coffee has the highest value. Being closer to the consumer, the farmer captures added value from his crop to support his family and community, while also investing in the future.
Farmers normally receive only a tiny percentage of the value their crop generates as it moves through the complex supply chain and is leveraged by multiple players in the coffee industry. THRIVE Farmers allows the farmer to share in the revenue generated. Being closer to the consumer, the farmer captures added value from his crop to support his family and community, while also investing in the future
THRIVE’s “farm-to-table” approach is appreciated by the retailer’s most discerning customers. By offering a specialty-grade coffee that supports the farmer, customers associate the retailer’s brand with positive change.
Through THRIVE Farmers, coffee lovers can access hand-crafted specialty coffees from some of the premier coffee growing regions of the world – at prices comparable to mass-produced coffees. Best of all, coffee lovers get to “know who grows” their morning cup.
THRIVE Farmers is not a charity, a branding organization or a trade policy group. We believe that economic sustainability for coffee farmers begins when they are given the business tools, distribution channels and knowledge resources to make a livable income. This is an economic bootstrap approach to sustainable progress.
As the first pillar of sustainability, THRIVE Farmers’ mission is to make the production of coffee economically sustainable. By purchasing Thrive Farmers coffee, the buyer is bringing economic sustainability to the farmer. We believe that the second and third pillars – social and environmental sustainability – can only occur when a farmer can adequately meet his basic needs. The farmer’s growing income creates a multiplier effect in the community as he hires additional workers and purchases more products and services locally.
As the producer’s economic circumstances improve, THRIVE Farmers will enter into an agreement to with the farmer or farmer groups to fulfill their part of the Sustainability Promise regarding the environmental and social issues in their farms and communities. While the nature of this promise will depend upon the individual circumstances producers face, some themes that are likely to be a focus include: to adopt specific production and processing practices over time, to remove old coffee plants and replant new coffee on their farms, to adapt to climate change, and to address the social and economic issues involved in making coffee production a viable livelihood for their children.
As the company grows and generates additional resources, it will support additional community-level initiatives, in response to farmers’ interests and requests. It will also improve its ability to demonstrate the positive impacts of its support at the farm, household and community level.
In 2008, Alejandro (Ale) Garcia’s Costa Rican coffee farm was at substantial risk of failure, so he became determined to do something about it. He left his five-generation family farm to go to the United States. Working in a restaurant in Pennsylvania Amish country, Ale saved $40,000 over after working for two years.
Ale returned home and invested his hard-earned money in coffee processing equipment and a modest coffee shop. This single event changed the trajectory of the family’s coffee farming business – and perhaps even the coffee industry. The key was a chance meeting with Ken Lander, an American from Georgia who had retired to Costa Rica and bought a coffee farm. Ken’s Costa Rican retirement was shaken by the financial crisis. His gentleman’s coffee farm now needed to feed his family. Much to Ken’s surprise, he discovered that being a coffee farmer didn’t deliver a viable income. His production costs were so high and revenue so low, that he couldn’t even pay his grocery bill.
Over the next two years, Ale and Ken forged ahead with Ale’s equipment and coffee knowledge, plus Ken’s business acumen. Together, they vertically integrated the supply chain by processing, roasting, packaging and selling their own coffee in their own small coffee shops in the tourism area of Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Demand for Ken and Ale’s high quality coffee quickly outstripped supply, so they partnered with other local farmers, offering to do all of the processing and marketing needed to sell the coffee. Ken and Ale provided a marketing platform for the farmers that:
To the farmers’ delight, the pilot approach dramatically increased the price their crop could command – in many cases up to five times more profit than what traditional buyers were paying.
In order to benefit more coffee farmers, Ken and Ale realized they would need help to scale their local business. Ken met Michael Jones, a successful entrepreneur in the healthcare services industry who was looking for a new opportunity. Michael had a keen interest in high-end coffee. Knowing the challenges his father-in-law faced as a Blue Mountain coffee farmer in Jamaica, Michael was eager to re-think the coffee supply chain. As a result, Ken, Ale and Michael started THRIVE Farmers.
THRIVE Farmers worked first with small farmers in Costa Rica and then in Guatemala and Honduras. To bolster quality, increase quantity and to access processing infrastructure for small farmers, THRIVE Farmers partnered with larger scale producers and processors to position the company for future growth. Moving beyond internet sales, THRIVE Farmers began selling roasted coffee to Earth Fare, a supermarket chain based in Asheville, NC, and green coffee to independent coffee roasters such as Cuvee Coffee in Austin, TX.
Producers, specialty roasters, retailers, consumers and coffee industry thought leaders have responded positively to the THRIVE Farmers revenue sharing model. As a result, THRIVE has recently entered into a number of strategic partnerships to ensure that we can meet the unprecedented demand for high quality coffee through our economically sustainable model.
THRIVE Farmers launched in 2010 with 5 farmers in Monteverde, Costa Rica. By the end of 2013-2014 coffee harvest, we will source coffee from at least 5000 mostly-small coffee farmers. We continue to grow as we bring our revenue-sharing model to farmers throughout Central America. We are also working with coffee cooperatives and farmer associations. These organizations see the long term benefit of the THRIVE model to deliver higher returns to their farmer members.
THRIVE Farmers works with a select few, long-established companies for sourcing, grading, cupping and shipping. These companies are eager to integrate their expertise and infrastructure into the THRIVE model as a platform for growth.