There is a lot of coffee out there. There are a lot of brands and companies that are contending for the number one position in the coffee arena. There are some coffee companies who desire to become the largest coffee company in the world (which oftentimes means cutting corners and not paying fair trade prices to the farmers who grow and harvest their coffee to provide for their families and their communities). There are other smaller companies who aim is to provide the fairest trade coffee can offer in order to help provide the necessary resources for people to live. It is hard sometimes to know where to find these companies. They are usually a ‘mom and pop’ company whose aim is a much smaller crowd. Is fair trade coffee the most important priority though? One company believes there is another aspect that is oftentimes overlooked. It is this third option though in the coffee world that I am most excited about. It is a company that not only provides a fair trade to their farmers so they can maintain a sense of dignity and provide for the means of their families but also works directly with that community in order to help it grow both economically and relationally. The coffee company I am referring to is “One Village Coffee” (OVC).
OVC is a small company that imports their coffee from four distinct areas in which they have personal relationships with the farmers who grow coffee. Each relationship OVC has with the farmers is genuine and real. Aaron Peazzoni, the operations manager of OVC wrote in a March 30th, 2007 newsletter, “One Village Coffee was founded on the simple idea that business can do more than business; they can also support the communities they work with.” I like that. I like the fact that they care more about the dividends at the end. These communities have needs. Why can we not do both? Through buying their coffee, we give them a reason to do what they do (and believe me, they do it well). Secondly, through positive relationships, we are able to cultivate meaningful community with those who are in need.
One example of how OVC is aiding those in need is the Katumoi Water Project. Essentially, OVC buys “this coffee directly from the farmers because the money is being used in the Keivo Valley to alleviate drought, famine and starvation.” When you buy OVC’s Kenya AA brand of roasted coffee, a percentage of the money is used to help this important need. You can read more about the Katumoi Water Project here.
Another need being meet through OVC is “The Mama Project.” Essentially, “Every time someone purchases a bag of our Aurora Blend, S1 goes to the National deworming campaign.” To deworm a child in Honduras for one year: $1. Money is also given for vitamins to help strengthen immune systems and provide for other needs. Check out the Moma Project’s website here.
There is a lot of coffee out there. Probably more coffee than we really need. There are three questions I need to ask: 1. How much money is given to the farmers who grow this coffee? 2. What kind of relationships do these companies have with the farmers? 3. Are they only concerned with the coffee or the community behind those who farm and cultivate the coffee for exportation? These are three serious questions we need to ask ourselves before we take a sip of whatever brand we have in our cups. OVC is not the only company doing a good work. There are perhaps many that are out there who have not shared their story. I do know however that OVC is doing something right. I can’t seem myself drinking another cup of coffee from the local convenient store or that ‘big name’ coffee shop. I want to know what I am buying, where it comes from, how fair the price is, and the priorities of the company behind the coffee. For me, OVC gets an ‘A.’ For more information concerning OVC and their mission, check out their site here or click the link under my “World Concerns” links. Let them know that I sent you and recommended that you check them out. Maybe together, we can meet the needs of the world, “One Village at a time.”
[author’s edit 9/13/07] “The only thing I would like readers to know is we are working with four countries in their coffee and community development, however we have started with one direct trade line which is our Kenya AA. As our presence countinues to grow in the specialty coffee market through people like you and other that join the OVC collective we will have more resources to share with the communities of need.” – Scott Hackman – VP
I thought I would edit this post and add Scott’s comment so you could be more informed. Thank you Scott for clarifying what it is you do and how you are involved with Kenya. I hope we will be able to add to the list personal relationships in the near future.