By Bob Fish
Farm-Direct describes a way of getting an agricultural product from the farmer to the consumer in the straightest line possible. The most familiar version of this is the ‘Farm to Table’ movement in the restaurant industry.
Coffee is grown all over the world in regions of high altitude between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. Our retail locations aren’t in those places. Our goal then is to reduce the number of hands that our coffee must pass through before it gets to our customers.
The Broker System
In the past we have relied on a series of brokers and warehouses to procure our coffee. That is a process in which coffee is a commodity sold on open exchanges for the lowest possible price. It is almost the opposite of a straight line. So, the obvious and best way for us to straighten that line is to build our relationships directly with the coffee farmer. Our commitment is to have 50% of our coffee be Farm-Direct by 2023.
The Farm-Direct Consumer
Farm-Direct consumers want to know where their product has come from and they want their farmers to have a good and healthy relationship with their crops. There are three basic questions that Michelle and I ask when considering a Farm-Direct relationship.
- Is the Farm treating people right?
- Is the Farm treating the planet right?
- Does the Farm have some other strong local social mission at play?
We ask these three questions to qualify the farmer as one who is naturally nurturing. Our goal is to establish a relationship with a farmer who has a healthy and nurturing relationship to their land, their crops, their people, and their community. This is exactly what the Farm-Direct consumer is searching for.
Like any of us, a coffee farmer has a desire for safety, security, dignity, and the opportunity to support a better life for the next generation. Farmers relying on the broker system have no guarantees. Often, they are forced to sell their crops at a price that is less than their cost to produce. This can lead them to farming practices that are harmful to the planet, to the workers, to their communities, and ultimately end with the eventual demise of the farm and the farmer.
Building a healthy Farm-Direct relationship creates buying stability for the farmer, which provides both safety and security, allowing them to invest in the farm, the next generation, and the community at large.
Farm-Direct is a distribution model that creates a direct relationship between the consumer and the farmer. Of course, it all starts with high quality coffee.