After posting my coffee chocolate chip ice cream recipe on Twitter on National Ice Cream Day, I received a “follow” from Levanta Coffee that was quickly followed up with a private message. It said, “We have been working hard to make a difference in the lives of our partner-farmers. We would love the opportunity to connect and see if you have any interest writing about our project.”
I was intrigued. No mention of what the “project” happened to be, so I went to their website and checked it out.
Levanta Coffee is what it sounds like…a coffee company. But, what makes Levanta so unique is their mission to change how farmers get paid. Their goal is to provide farmers 50% more than the current market price for the coffee beans they grow by connecting the farmers with the producers, and cutting out a bunch of the middlemen. Which means, cutting out cost. So, why would they want to do that?
Let’s put it into perspective. On average, a small-scale coffee farmer only profits $2,000 – $4,000 a year for their crop. That’s it. Your fabulous $3 soy no-whip white chocolate mocha with five pumps and an extra shot that you get at your favorite coffee shop…less than 5 cents* goes to the coffee farmers. Five flippin’ cents.
Let’s give you some more perspective. Coffee farming is hard, manual labor. Each bean is picked by hand. No machines. The physical environment can be extremely challenging for farming too – rough terrain and volatile weather can make “going to work every day” a pretty trying experience. Coffee farming is a difficult job with a small pay out compared to the amount of effort that goes in.
This is where Matt Hohler and Robert Durrette, the co-founders of Levanta Coffee, want to make a difference. They want to help improve the lives and communities of their farmers by providing them better jobs. They want to bring to the forefront that there are real people picking the beans that make your coffee. Real families who struggle to make it happen every day. Right now, they are working with two farmers.
Meet the Farmers
He’s 40 years old, married, and he and his family have been producing coffee for more than 25 years. Daniel sacrificed so much time helping to build up the cooperative in his town that is not able to maintain his own plantation. Now, his farm needs major renovations and replanting.
She is a 42-year-old widow with three children. She said, “In my case, being a woman who is an entrepreneur, and now when I’ve ended up all by myself—people might think this is too hard. But I’ve still got my kids.” Her 22-year-old son, Nolberto, is now the “man of the house” helping his mother run the plantation, and he aspires to be an innovative coffee producer.
Real people. Real families.
I asked Matt if he could pinpoint the one moment that made him want to start this company with his business partner. He said, “In 2010 and 2011, I went on two missions – one to Honduras and the other to Haiti. It was the first time I was exposed to “real, deep poverty”. In the United States, if someone needs help, there are safety nets. Soup kitchens to get a hot meal or homeless shelters to put a roof over your head. These countries don’t have that. I wanted to help, and I saw coffee as the vehicle to make change happen. We believe by giving the most you have, you’ll get it back in return.”
Right now, Levanta is raising money through a Kickstarter campaign to purchase coffee directly from farmers and begin production in the U.S. They reached their initial goal of $35,000 in just 7 days – which is totally amazing. It just shows how powerful their story and business model truly is. They still have 27 days left in their campaign. The additional money they raise during that time will go towards adding more farmers to their business. Which means, helping more families like Daniel’s and Rosa’s.
I think this is such a beautiful story – two men trying to make a difference in the world, and in an industry that is not doing much to take care of the people who make coffee a reality – the farmers. It really resonates with me. We all can make a difference, one cup of coffee at a time.
*This cost is a rough approximation. The size of the beans vary, which affects yield.