Our coffees are grown by small farmer cooperatives that are founded and democratically governed by the farmers themselves. Most individual farmers own less than five acres and cannot directly market their crop overseas.
These cooperatives not only provide direct access to foreign buyers (avoiding middlemen who drive up costs but add no value to the crop), but also fund local development projects such as schools, electric distribution, transportation, etc. The result is a higher standard of living for the farmer as compared to the workers on corporate estates where most of the world's coffee is grown.
Cooperative Coffees is a green coffee importing cooperative (based in Americus, Georgia), made up of community-based coffee roasters in the USA and Canada. They are committed to building and supporting fair and sustainable trade relationships for the benefit of the farmers, their families and communities.
Since its inception in 1999, Coop Coffees has grown from 7 to 23 members and in 2006 it created Coop Sol, a Solidarity Cooperative in Montreal aimed at strengthening relationships with their coffee producers, insuring that social justice values are represented across the organization and assisting Coop Coffees with the logistics of importing green coffee.
OPTCO was founded in 1989 by Garth and Gay Smith in Vancouver, WA to support the importation and sales of organically grown coffee. By working directly with the growers, they have had considerable success in raising standards for product quality and consistency. This, in turn, has led to increased consumer demand and a better return for the coffee farmer.
Going beyond ecological factors into social justice issues, OPTCO was instrumental in the development of the Café Femenino Project and is the sole importer of Café Femenino coffees into North America (see below).
Café Femenino Coffee is grown by more than 1,500 women coffee producers in Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. The Café Femenino Project began in Peru to help women farmers to collectively market their coffee and build social and support networks to overcome the effects of poverty and gender inequality.
The success of the initial project led to the creation of The Café Femenino Foundation, which funds select programs and projects that enhance the lives of women and their families in coffee growing communities around the world.