Do they even grow coffee in Bolivia? Beautiful coffee in fact.
Mostly in areas surrounding Caranavi, in the Yungas region – the same place that Bolivian coffee farmer Mario Condori comes from.
Yesterday Ethical Bean had the privilege of hosting this coffee farmer. Condori grew up working with coffee. His family moved to the small village of Muñecas so that his father could start a coffee farm, in the heart of Los Yungas. After high school Mario took to the role of a coffee farmer with a passion and a new way of doing things.
He says, “When my father started coffee producing, he didn’t understand how to care for the plants and produce quality coffee. Over the years, we (coffee farmers) have learned how to not only cultivate quality beans, but to do so in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment,” Mario also indicated that since joining Fair Trade eight years ago, his knowledge of how to properly farm coffee has grown tremendously and with it, the demand from international importers.
Mario has five hectares of land that he cultivates with his wife who takes the lead in tending to the coffee plants. He has been an associate and member of the co-op COAINE almost since its start in 1989, and in 2011 he became its president. This new role requires him to juggle the business of coffee farming with the actual farm work required – something that can be taxing on Mario.
So what is this busy Bolivian coffee farmer doing in Vancouver?
Mario’s visit was facilitated by Canadian Crossroads International (CCI), an organization working in Africa and the Andean region of South America. CCI connects individuals, organizations and communities in Canada with those in developing countries creating partnerships to campaign against poverty, HIV and women’s inequality.
From Winnipeg west, Mario has been on a whirlwind tour, visiting roasters with a desire to better understand their needs, their customer’s needs, and the coffee culture of Canada. He is hoping to learn how he might partner with a roaster like Ethical Bean to sell his coffee in Canada.
So often this scenario is reversed. It is the roasters going to origin to learn about the coffee, the people, and how it’s grown. It is fantastic when a farmer is able to visit roasters and coffee companies here and see what it is that we do and our obvious passion for what they grow.
For Ethical Bean the story has only just begun. In a couple of months we’ll receive a sample of coffee from the COAINE Co-op. It will be our first taste and an essential and exciting next step. As Ethical Bean’s Director of Coffee I have a good feeling that this sample is going to taste great. Here’s why…
Mario expressed a sincere commitment to coffee farming and all of the myriad subtle touches, distinctions and skills that are brought to bear before a beautiful, washed coffee bean is realized for export. Somewhat unique about Mario and his approach to farming is that it’s couched in a holistic vision for life.
In the current record highs of the coffee market many farmers around the world are planting coffee. Lots and lots of coffee, and sometimes with little care for the earth. This happens every time the market spikes and in four to five years we can expect to see a surplus of coffee, prices at a new low, and the land overworked.
But a farmer like Mario and the co-op COAINE who have a passion for caring for the earth, will have healthier trees producing more abundant and better fruit, and ultimately better coffee.
Last but not least, Mario was unequivocal in his enthusiasm for the premiums they receive as part of a Fair Trade and Organic certified cooperative. Over the past years those premiums have proven valuable, allowing COAINE to target specific needs within their community, such as roads and schools, and make those improvements a reality.
For that he was grateful and the message that underpins his time here in Canada is one of encouragement – that more Canadians would choose Fair Trade and Organic coffee. It’s important as it has helped him and the Co-op he now leads to grow, persevere and prosper.
We learned a lot from Mario Condori and want to share this experience with you. He will be at EP!C Sustainable Living Expo this weekend in Vancouver hanging out at the Fair Trade Pavilion. We have two tickets to EP!C that can be yours. Just send in a question that you’d like to ask Mario.
The question displaying the most raw genius of any question asked by the general public to a coffee farmer as decided by the brain trust here at Ethical Bean, will be awarded the two tickets. And it gets better. The winning question will be posed to Mario and his reply will be posted in a week’s time on our blog.