JUNIOR'S ROASTED COFFEE
CARYN NELSON, MIKE NELSON and CAROL TESSITORE
As told by Caryn, Mike and Carol.
Junior’s used their Big Idea Grant to start a community-funded coffee model, helping to reduce risk for growers and educate consumers about the supply chain.
WE SELL TRULY FAIR COFFEE
Our big idea is Community Funded Coffee. Every quarter, a customer can adopt a specific type of coffee. So, if you sign up, you're actually pre-financing somebody's coffee crops. Then you get information on how the crop is doing, harvesting and your importer — you learn what’s going on with the coffee at every stage of the journey.
WANT A CUP OF COFFEE? PAY THE FARMER
Coffee producers — like, the actual farmers — don’t get paid enough to cover their costs. Prices paid to coffee farmers have stayed the same since the 1970s. And unless they get a healthy gross margin on their costs of production, we’re exploiting them. So we came up with a plan to pay them fairly. We work to figure out the cost of production of coffee, and then sell our customers subscriptions for that coffee to ensure the growers get paid fairly. Our project is all about connecting the consumer with this information so they can make informed and more sustainable decisions about where their coffee comes from.
“It’s easy to look at your iced latte and not realize how many people’s hard work went into it. Sustainability includes making sure the farmers, producers - everyone in the supply chain - all get paid a fair livable wage.”
— Carol Tessitore
KEEPING FARMERS GOING = SUSTAINABILITY
We’re focused on the sustainability of the farmer and their being able to sustain their business. They’re the most important part of the chain, and that’s often overlooked.
HOW WE’RE DOING
Community Funded Coffee launched in November 2021 and we’re now in our second quarter of sales. We sold out of Q1 subscriptions and successfully pre-financed a 154 lb. bag of coffee from Jorge Rojas’ farm, El Jardin. People are keen on building equity into the coffee supply stream.
IF YOU HAVEN’T GUESSED, WE’RE REALLY INTO THIS STUFF
CFC was born out of one of Mike’s (our founder) passion projects: the cost of production. That means he goes to a Costa Rican coffee producer and works with them to discover how much they're spending per quarter per year, and how much they're receiving. What he’s found, with coffee, is that the cost of production is often not even covered. So farmers go into debt and just get on this treadmill where they're trying to make more and more coffee. With our Costa Rican producer, not only are we covering that cost, the producer is getting a 30% profit margin.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Everyone needs to be flexible. Coffee supply chain delays were our biggest challenge this year, so we had to be flexible. But so did our customers. They learned that they were pre-financing coffee, and that the arrival of their coffee depended on several variables outside our control, such as weather, processing, shipping, etc. We used these variables as a way to educate consumers about the realities of the food system and specifically the coffee supply chain.
Caryn, Mike and Carol’s 5 ways to successfully start a Community
Funded Coffee program:
START THE CONVERSATION.
Talk to your coffee producer partners and importer partners to see if this is a project they'd like to pursue with you.
KEEP TALKING, THIS TIME WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS.
Ask your customers if they’d support this. Not everyone is familiar with the concept of "pre-financing" coffee, but most consumers understand the concept of Community Supported Agriculture.
BUT KEEP IT LIGHT.
Make it fun and approachable. Talking about money is not always something people want to do with their morning coffee.
Be able to adapt to global transportation issues, and communicate often with customers.
SHARE WHAT YOU LEARN WITH THE WORLD.
In mid-October 2022, Junior’s is going to release a project guide that shares everything we’ve learned. CFC is open-source, so anyone can use it.
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