Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) helps farmers around the world share the risk and bounty of their harvest with those in their region. But what happens when your “community” is global, and consumers want to buy direct from farmers thousands of miles away?
You use technology, says Coffee CSA General Manager, Thaleon Tremain
“We can do it because the technology now exists,” says Tremain of Coffee CSA, a business owned and controlled by farmers world wide. “20 years ago we could not have done this. But with email and skype, and the new software available, it is possible to have a CSA like this that sells coffee directly to consumers.”
Coffee CSA is owned by Pachamama Coffee Cooperative, an international cooperative controlled by farmer cooperatives around the world. This means Pachamama is owned by more than 140,000 small-scale farmers and “may be the only farmer cooperative in the U.S. owned by an international group farmers,” says Tremain. He and his team in the U.S., with the help of CSAware, a tool for running a CSA developed by Guillermo Payet, run the marketing side of the business online.
The result is a website where consumers purchase coffee directly from farmer cooperatives in countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Peru and Guatemala. CSAware makes it possible for people to sign up for “subscriptions” for monthly or weekly shipments, without causing undue paperwork or the need for constant contact with the individual cooperatives and farmers. Subscriptions also ensure a steady market for farmers.
Tremain worked in Bolivia in the Peace Corps the 1990s helping to set up small businesses and lending micro credit to farmers. “What I learned there is that farmers work the hardest and earn the least,’ says Tremain. “I thought, if we could connect the farmer directly to consumers they could make more. But back then they had no access to the market and to end customers.”
Now via technology, customers can directly connect with farmers, and ideally, know the true story behind the food they buy. While in reality that connection is often not quite as clear as many consumers would like since products like coffee or grains are milled at facilities where other farms also process goods, Coffee CSA firmly establishes that link by working with cooperatives owned by the farmers themselves.
CSA subscriptions are available in 3, 6, and 12 month deliveries of coffee to your doorstep.