Thursday, March 25, 2010

guest post: coffee revolution + giveaway!

When I heard my friend Patrick was involved in coffee + microfinance, I knew he had to do a guest post. Many of us drink coffee regularly, but do we stop to think where it comes from and who grows it?

{Being an Ohio State alum, I suppose I’ll have to overlook the fact that Patrick is a graduate of the University of Michigan}.

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Hey blog readers, my name is Patrick, and I’m the Director of Operations of Unión MicroFinanza, a non-profit organization that works to provide microfinance to the people of La Unión, Honduras in the most innovative and effective ways possible.

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Microfinance provides impoverished people with loans that can be used to purchase seeds or fertilizer for crops, tools for a trade, or anything else which will raise income.

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The main crop grown in La Unión is coffee, but farmers receive very small wages because they have no transportation and little bargaining power. By eliminating many middlemen, we’re able to buy coffee from farmers at fair prices, sell it to consumers at low prices, and use the proceeds to fund loans in La Unión.

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The weather conditions and altitude in La Unión are ideal for coffee growing. Actually, one of the best things about our coffee is that the quality is better than that of a Starbucks grade coffee or something similar that you would find in a supermarket.

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Fair trade is by far the most common buzzword used with coffee these days.  Fair Trade coffee must meet specifications for working conditions and prices paid to farmers, as well as other regulations.  Essentially, the goal of Fair Trade is to be sure that producers and harvesters of coffee are treated fairly.

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Our coffee is not actually Fair Trade Certified, a classification more relevant to coffee plantations which employ tens to hundreds of employees and can afford the up-front cost. Because our coffee is grown entirely on small, family owned plots of land, the certification process is currently prohibitively expensive.

However, we buy our coffee through a local cooperative which brings together small family farms, and we buy above the Fair Trade regulated price.


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Currently, our coffee is not organic because there is no local demand to justify the added costs of organic fertilizers. This is something which we hope to address in the future, if we can create a large enough demand.

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Our organization has many goals, but they all come back to improving the lives of the people of La Unión.  We will be working not just with coffee farmers, but with many different types of men and women. 

We aim to:

  • provide microfinance: will enable the people of La Unión to increase their income and standard of living. 
  • create or expand markets for the sales of products: the coffee is a perfect example of what we hope to do—a farmer can use a loan from us in order to buy fertilizer, which can increase output by as much as 100%, and then sell the coffee in the United States at an elevated price. 

By helping increase supply from farmers and entrepreneurs, as well as creating new demand for their products, we aim to create a cycle of empowerment, as opposed to the cycle of poverty which plagues people in developing countries around the world.

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Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave any questions or comments for me!

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I’d really encourage you to stop and think about the coffee you buy. Do you know if the farmers who grew the coffee beans were paid a fair wage…and is this something that’s important to you?

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Giveaway

Three ways to win:

1. Comment in response to this post. What kind of coffee do you     buy, and are you interested in better than fair trade coffee?

2. Earn an extra brownie point by mentioning the giveaway on your blog or Tweeting about it and linking back to this post. Then, let me know you did so when you comment.

3. Extra, extra brownie point by becoming a fan of the Unión MicroFinanza Facebook page! Again, let me know you did so when you comment.

Deadline is Wednesday, March 31st at midnight (CST). Multiple winners!

If you’re interested in supporting Unión MicroFinanza by purchasing coffee, you can do so here.

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39 comments:

  1. I don't buy or drink coffee because I don't like the taste. I've heard so many bad things about the unfair conditions for coffee growers, so I'm all for fair trade and organizations like Unión MicroFinanza!

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  2. This is a great post! Dave and I generally buy Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts but recently talked about how we want to make it a priority to switch to either local coffee shop coffee or fair trade. I'm going to show Dave this post, too!

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  3. i don't typically buy coffee but i get DD when i do.

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  4. and i'm linking in my post scheduled to go up tmrw

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  5. My favorite coffee is Peet's Major Dickson.

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  6. Just tweeted. http://twitter.com/FRESHLOCALBEST

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  7. wow great story and post!! I love newmans own organic coffee

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  8. I buy walmart brand... i'm poor , but if i knew i was helping i would definetly do it!

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  9. I love coffee but never really think about fair trade... great guest post to remind and educate me on this subject! :)

    I usually buy coffee in Tjs or wherever I find.

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  10. I hardly drink coffee anymore but if I do it's from a local coffee shop. Interesting post though, I had never thought about fair trade.

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  11. I am a fan on FB! I love coffee, so of course I love this post, because it does matter to me where my coffe comes from because I drink a ridiculous amount of it...sort of. At the moment I am drinking coffee that my sister-n-law brought me back from Costa Rica...but I usually buy it from World Market..the WM brand. I will try to fit you into my blog...but dont give me brownie points in case I dont actually do it or forget...: D

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  12. I try to buy fair trade coffee as well, but honestly, I never really looked into who and what was behind the beans I drink. Right now we drink fair trade coffee from Trader Joe's!

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  13. I drink whatever my husband buys and often it is starbucks or DD, because this is what we have available here. He did just buy a book on growing organic coffee and I think it discussed fair trade in there and stuff.

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  14. I became a fan on facebook.

    Did you enter my giveaway, it ends tonight.

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  15. Thanks for getting the word out about what you're doing! I feel like "social entrepreneurship" is becoming a trend, but I hope it's a trend that's hear to stay. I typically buy Trader Joe's fair trade organic french roast, but I would be interested in buying coffee from an organization such as yours. Keep up the good work! Definitely tweeting this:)

    www.twitter.com/bethanylucari

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  16. And.... just bought some on your site! Can't wait to try it! Great price, great cause! Thanks for the post.

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  17. thank you for this wonderful post. it definitely got me thinking about my ability to make choices and how to be more conscious of that in my every day life. I buy Intelligentsia coffee and am definitely interested in fair trade coffee.

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  18. I buy Peace Coffee (unless someone else gifts me with coffee...) - they're a local fair trade company that is also focused on sustainability. They bike-deliver all their orders in Mpls and that's something I really value!

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  19. Worth the wait! I love coffee, especially a nice medium to dark roast. Probably too much. I am very aware of fair trade and actually the coffee I buy is always purchased directly from farmer and they are paid above fair trade(http://bit.ly/1hfXZ). I think what Patrick is doing is really cool and it may have larger implications for these people. I want some coffee from la union. Have a good weekend Em!

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  20. Uncle Ken and Aunt NancyMarch 27, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    Great story, wonderful information...terrific blog!

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  21. Totally support fair trade coffee! I get some from Earthfare that I love.

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  22. What a great post. I had read about fair trade coffees in my dietitian magazine, but this was great information. I buy from Caribou, which I believe is fair trade coffee. I love coffee. Almost more than chocolate. Almost...

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  23. I don't often buy bulk coffee anymore (honestly I buy it out and about more often now!), but the last time I did it was blue bottle coffee from San Francisco. Mmmm. Thanks for the giveaway and post, I learned so much!

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  24. i always aim for fair trade, but sometimes can't b/c of $$ but I try :)

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  25. I am an avid coffee drinker and try to abreast of all things about it. WHoleFoods has pretty good value on fair trade and organic coffees so that is one place I option that..

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  26. I just became a FB fan because I really love coffee and want to win!

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  27. This is an amazing thing they are doing! I currently drink whatever is on sale but would love to drink coffee that I know comes from a place where the farmers are given fair price and wages.
    I have Tweeted this at @shrinkingamber I have also facebook followed them as glitterrayne

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  28. i drink soooo much coffee :] i typically have either trader joe coffee or illy espresso on hand at all times. the idea of fair trade coffee is so important and i would love to support it!

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  29. We buy any organic, fair trade vanilla coffee we can find, and they're few and far between!

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  30. Great blog post Patrick! I am so proud of you guys. The response is incredible! I'll link this post to my fb and my new blog. Don't put me in for the drawing though ;)
    For those of you who have not tried this coffee yet, it is simply amazing. :)

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  31. I usually buy Starbucks but try to buy their (red) brand or something that "helps". Just went to Ecuador so bought some beans from a local organic/fair-trade farm but they're almost all gone!

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Leave a comment; I'd love to hear from you!