Monday, March 14, 2011

Reflecting on Luis Garzon, Coffee Farmer

It seems of late that everyone has posted a "why coffee prices are rising," and I do not intend to repeat the excellent explanations offered by the likes of Mercanta or Counter Culture.

I did think it was worth highlighting a post by the New York Times illustrating the human cost imposed by strange weather at coffee origins. The story of coffee farmer Luis Garzon reminds me that any shift in lands suitable for coffee production will be accompanied by real suffering, as farmers see the value of their skills and the viability of their land both devalued by changing weather patterns.

It's certainly hopeful that the GCQRI and academics at origin are working to develop sustainable solutions for specialty coffee, but the process of uncovering the future of coffee will be messy and for now many farmers are going to have great difficulty staying in business.

Really, I suppose the story of Luis Garzon reminds me that there is a flip side to the challenges imposed by high prices on cafes and roasters. Those high prices reflect the difficulty that many farmers are having producing excellent coffee for all of us to enjoy.

Indeed, I could imagine that production problems on a coffee farm would be more challenging that dealing with peak green prices. While we consumers can pick and choose our coffees, producers must stick with their trees or risk considerable expense uprooting them and waiting for a new crop to grow. Worse, many farmers must make these choices with a minimal safety net, literally risking their children's educational future for coffee.

As usual, when I really take time to read about the work and risk that goes into producing my cup, I come away humbled and incredibly encouraged by the passion that farmers like Luis display for our beverage.