ASOBAGRI, a Guatemalan co-op with a bright future ahead.

by Kim Schachte

During our last trip to Guatemala, Lloyd and I were joined by Project Somos Chair Greg Kemp for a trip into the northern highlands near the Mexican border to visit the Asobagri Coffee Coop. Following heavy rains that flooded roads into the area, we opted for a short helicopter ride directly to Barillas, where we were greeted by co-op staffer Arcadio Juan Martín.

Following the short journey into town to Asobagri’s new facility, we sat down to a meeting with Baltazar Francisco Miguel, eager to absorb everything we could in our brief time together. We shared our philosophy and our desire to shrink the gap between coffee growers and coffee drinkers.

The notion that North Americans were interested in his story had not struck Baltazar until Lloyd introduced our new iPhone app with images of local farmers. As he held a bag of our coffee, shipped from his warehouse some 5,000 kilometres to Vancouver and carried back by us, there was a collective energy in the room. A profound respect on our part and a connection to another world on his.

From there, we climbed back into the truck for the arduous journey up. Past open street markets, stray dogs and tethered cows, where concrete block and corrugated metal gave way to hills and eventually, to amazing vistas.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Pedro Martín Pedro, our host Arcadio Juan Martín, and his wife Eulalia. We washed up for lunch outside before entering their home, where I was struck at once by Eulalia’s quiet charm as she stoked the fire and readied our meal, rolling tortillas and carefully placing them on the stovetop.

After lunch we toured through coffee plants growing nearly vertically in places and I had the great pleasure of wandering with camera in hand. Numerous families had gathered to meet us and we were given an opportunity to be introduced individually and to hear some of their stories.

All too soon, as afternoon faded we retraced our route back into town, delivering co-op members home along the way. Images of the people I met there, the few I was fortunate enough to photograph and those that I didn’t will remain with me – and the incredible honesty and integrity that lives in them.