The Daily Dirt

Cafe Campesino & Georgia Organics Partner to Support Farmers

Landing a barista job at Café Campesino might be entry-level at first glance, but for many key employees, this role was simply the first step.

With “celebrating people” and “doing the right thing” as two of six core company values, promoting from within is not only possible, it’s likely.

“When we find staffers who are smart, hard-working, and committed to our business model, we make an effort to lift them up and keep them on staff,” said Nema Etheridge, Café Campesino’s Marketing Director and former barista. “We are a better company for it.”

Like Nema, Hannah Mercer started out taking coffee orders behind the counter in a part-time role to leading the company’s training efforts as a Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Premier Trainer. Café Campesino operates the only SCA Premier Training Campus in Georgia, and one of the few in the region.

“I came to Café Campesino … never imagining that I would be able to establish a career from my part-time barista gig,” Hannah said.

Now, Hannah pays it forward by working to instill a sense of confidence in the baristas she trains.

“Even if I’m just someone who provides that voice of ‘I believe in you,’ that’s enough,” she said.

The coffee beans that patiently wait in burlap bags that have traveled to Americus from Guatemala, Peru, and Ethiopia to the Café Campesino Roastery ultimately end up in the hands of another former Café Campesino barista, Ethan Ryan, who roasts and sorts more than 500 pounds of fair trade coffee beans daily.

“He brings a level of care and consciousness to the roasting process,” Nema said as Ethan demoed the roasting process for guests in late June.

The success of Café Campesino was always intended to be an Americus-based story.

“For more than 20 years, we’ve worked to build expertise within the specialty coffee industry, but we’ve also wanted to provide employment for people who want to stay in Americus,” said Bill Harris, one of Café Campesino’s co-founders. “A key part of our being in Americus is to contribute to the viability of our town and help it be a place where people want to live.”

The Café Campesino approach to its people internally is reflective of its business model as well.

Through a co-op model, they are able to truly produce fair trade coffee. Cafe Campesino is a member-owner of Cooperative Coffees, a green coffee importing cooperative of coffee roasters that are located in the U.S. and Canada, collectively sharing the demand for millions of pounds of green (unroasted) coffee that is grown by thousands of small-scale farmers around the world.

Those farmers plant and tend coffee trees on their own property and manage the annual harvesting and depulping of coffees at their homes. They then sell that coffee to their own cooperative, which prepares it for export. Farmer-owned cooperatives manage the export and sale of their members’ coffees as well as organic and fair trade certifications, offer farm-training  to their members to help improve yield or combat pests, and help farmers produce additional crops in an effort to diversify their incomes.  “Cooperatives help farmers mitigate their risks in a highly volatile market,” Nema said. “In our model, the chain of custody is extremely direct- one producer group sells to one buyer group.”

This collaborative approach is mirrored in the partnership between Georgia Organics and Café Campesino – which includes in-kind coffee at the Georgia Organics annual conference as well as a Georgia Organics blend of coffee for sale with a portion of proceeds benefiting the nonprofit.

“We find so many parallels between our work with small-scale coffee farmers around the world and the work Georgia Organics does here at home,” Bill said. “We all benefit from collaboration, shared stories, and shared successes. And now, more than ever, the good food movement needs great organizations like Georgia Organics to advocate for and connect organics farmers with thoughtful consumers.”

Georgia Organics President Alice Rolls loves the partnership’s balance of local versus international, while being rooted in similar values and philosophies.

“The issues we work on don’t stop at state lines,” Alice said. “We need to take a world perspective on these issues, and that what I like about partnering with Café Campesino.”

Learn more about Bill Harris’ take on fair trade, and check out this cool video interview with Pedro Pacheco Bop, a small-scale farmer that was worked with Café Campesino in Guatemala for more than 15 years.



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