Colombia Partnership : Shared Source
Relationships are at the heart of what we do at Non-Fiction. We’ve had the pleasure of working more closely with some producers than others, although we’d love to have a more direct personal relationship with all of the producers with whom we partner. Colombia has been one of those countries in which we’ve not had a clear door open to more personal relationships with either a coffee farmer or small scale importer.
However, we’ve recently come into partnership with a collection of individuals in Colombia, who’re ensuring more than sufficient wages are being paid for coffee and also ensuring producers can plan/prepare for the future. Shared Source has had boots on the ground in Colombia for several years, and have developed long standing relationships with smallholder farmers. We’re honored to be able to showcase the work of producers from whom they purchase coffees.
Shared Source prioritizes whole harvest purchasing, which is more of a gift than it seems. Many farms, if they’re producing a top lot, have well-meaning roasters come in and buy only the top lot, which may make up only 15% of their harvest. The producer is then left to scramble to find another buyer for the remainder of their coffee in a timely manner, and could very likely be left to sell their remaining coffee at the local market or to “coyotes”.
On top of whole harvest purchasing, Shared Source also prioritizes partnering with those who may have fewer opportunities in the industry (ex. Female producer, young producer, or simply a smallholder producer). Producers who have little access to funding and who don’t have contracts from buyers are often left unable to take on small business loans, which they’d need to purchase fertilizer and other farming equipment.
On that topic, fertilizer costs are becoming a major hindrance to sustainability and financial stability for producers. On top of that, labor shortages are increasing the cost of paying laborers to pick coffee cherries. Without access to financing, producers face the possibility of their crop quality diminishing from insufficient picking practices or they could lose a majority of their crop altogether. Shared Source is taking the small but necessary steps to ensure producers have access to the funds and resources necessary to thrive and sustain coffee production for years to come.
Here is a quote from their website, which gets at the heart of who Shared Source is:
“We recognize inherent power imbalances in relationships between buyers and sellers, and we seek to empower producers to recognize the value that they can and do add to their product. We do this by regularly sharing cupping notes, visiting producers to learn about their processing techniques and making suggestions when it’s helpful and relevant. … We want to help people realize that it’s not for marketing benefit that we should buy this way, but because it’s the right way to buy. It’s the only way to participate in the industry while aspiring to be a good global citizen.”
“Seeking to empower producers” – that’s really what being in our line of work is all about, isn’t it? Once you’ve seen how marginalized coffee farmers can be, finding every opportunity to right that wrong and to flip the supply chain on its head becomes priority one. Shining light on and paying honorably the kindest, most humble, hardest working people is the least we can do. We’re honored to continue this pursuit with our new friends, Shared Source.