Behind every great coffee are the farmers that make it happen, and that is something we value here at 80 Stone. Knowing the producer is a great indicator of traceability, and often aligns with better quality, and better priced coffee.
The way farmers interact is different all over the globe, but there are two common methods:
Individual Farms / Estates
Some smaller farms choose to engage in direct sale and agree to sell their coffees straight to roasteries or importers, these often feature micro-lot coffees, which are more expensive and usually of higher quality. This process is itself complicated, expensive, and requires a lot more experience and capital, so many farmers opt instead to bring their coffees to Co-operatives.
Co-operatives / Collectives
Across Central- and South-America, many local farmers bring their coffees to Co-operatives, who pool together, sort, grade, price and sell the coffee on behalf of the farmers. More often than not, the individual farmers sell their coffee to the cooperative, and receive their payment, however some times the farmers may own their coffee until the final sale to a green importer or roaster, having processing it at their farm, and bring it to co-operatives as a final stage to have it assessed and eventually sold. It can be a great way for farmers to gain better connections to buyers, but also to develop skills as farmers, and even funding and support, since Co-operatives often create an environment of learning and sharing to help all the members benefit. Co-operatives range in size from 20-1000 members, and almost always feature a membership fee. Of course, there are many different structures of Co-operatives, and they can differ from each other in substantial ways, but this underlined some of the more common features. Cooperatives and collectives also exist in East-Africa, and whilst having similar effects, are sometimes structured differently, and are instead focused on sharing the economic resources which are limited in Africa, as opposed to sharing education and human resources. For example, almost all collectives are centred around a communal Mill or Washing Station, where coffee is brought from surrounding farms, and often graded, processed, and sold together, as opposed to being sorted and kept distinct. This can result in many coffees from different farms being pooled and sold in the same bags, leading to a loss in consistency and quality of coffees, and whilst some exceptional coffees are still kept and sold individually, the majority are mixed together, this is why people typically prefer to buy from smaller collectives, or individual farms, but this is increasingly harder and harder to find. Collectives are often responsible for holding auctions, thus generating higher average prices for them, reflected in higher initial prices for the farmers.