Farmer Brothers sources coffee from growers around the globe, relying on a diverse team of experts to find the very best beans and support the communities where they are grown. A key figure in the process is Molly Laverty, Manager of Sustainable Green Coffee Supply & Procurement for Coffee Bean International, Specialty Coffee by Farmer Brothers. We spoke to Molly about the ideas behind Farmer Brothers’ Direct Trade portfolio and why it’s important to get to know the people behind outstanding coffees.
What are the origins of relationship coffee and direct trade at Farmer Brothers?
My original role with Farmer Brothers was managing our relationship coffee portfolio. I identified farmers that we were already working with and helped develop profiles on them for our customers. We were getting questions like, “where does this coffee come from?” and, “What does this co-op do to support its community?” and we were excited to be able to gather and share that information with our customers.
At the same time we were also building our direct trade portfolio, a buying philosophy that includes working directly with farmers and being involved in the entire green coffee supply chain. Cultivating relationships with producer groups had always been a priority, but our first formal direct trade relationship began with a co-op in Peru that was producing really special coffees. Our goal was to identify the specific farmers who were growing these great coffees and develop a program to provide them with financial incentives to continue producing coffees of such high quality.
How has relationship coffee evolved at Farmer Brothers?
Our initial relationship coffee efforts were so successful that we expanded the program into our “Project Direct” initiative and have continued to seek out great farmers in range of coffee regions. The entire process has given us an amazing opportunity to get to know farmers around the world who are producing exceptional coffees. Now cooperatives and individuals will come to us with coffees they feel deserve recognition.
In the end, we’re able to pay a premium so that the farmers can keep investing in growing those high quality coffees and allowing us to offer them to our customers.
There was recognition that if we wanted these same quality coffees in the future, we should start fostering relationships with the coffee growers now. At the beginning, our direct trade and relationship coffee procurement was really about our needs, but then we started to think of how these relationships could benefit our customers beyond the high quality coffees they yielded.
What is the future of relationship coffee at Farmer Brothers?
At the outset we discovered that many customers didn’t think about where their coffee comes from, how it’s grown, or how it’s bought and sold. We wanted to share what we learned in a way that wasn’t too complex or overwhelming but offered a new perspective on the real people producing our coffee. It’s been very impactful and helped to develop a broader appreciation for the need to properly value really great coffees and find ways to ensure their availability in the future by focusing in on the people and communities, investing to help make their lives better.
To learn more about Project Direct, please visit www.projectdirectcoffee.com