The following article was written by our good friend and copywriter extraordinaire Jayden O'Neil. Check out his company Brew Copy for more.
Sometimes you’ll find the name of the farmer on your timely coffee and other times the co-op (pronounced co-op, as in cooperative, not chicken coop). If you’ve ever read the word and thought, ‘What the?’ Well, here’s what:
What is a co-op, and why do they exist?
A coffee co-op is a group of coffee producers cooperating as a larger unit, rather than in isolation. They vary in size, from 10 farmers to 800. Or more. And to join, a farmer pays a small fee. But wait—why can’t farmers work alone and not pay a fee, you might ask?
Well they can. But if you’re a farmer with a tiny plantation of coffee, you might not have the know-how, equipment, or volume of produce to grow, process and sell high-quality coffee.
So you either sell your coffee to an exporter that pays you poorly (like, around 40% lower) and doesn’t celebrate your hard-work. Or, you join a co-op.
As a not-for-profit, co-ops work in the best interest of the farmer, providing education, support, and resources to help people create a viable business.
Given there’s more coffee beans to go round, they also have greater leverage with the international market and can connect directly with coffee importers, creating more transparency.
So while we might not know the exact farmers, for the most part we can still find out about the region, varietals, process, and the co-op’s philosophy.
Good co-ops (can) create a better world
For many countries (especially emerging countries), improving the coffee industry means greater financial resilience, social well-being, and, on an individual level, an avenue to greater opportunities.
Co-ops can help to remove the barriers, and often play a central role in making the coffee industry accessible for folks to seek these opportunities and, in turn, gain personal and larger societal benefits.
Moreover, they can help create environmental sustainability too.
For example, co-ops that we get coffee from invest in agricultural research, ensuring farmers plant crops that have higher yields and have greater resistance to disease—meaning people rely less on fertilisers and other interventions that degrade the soil (and ecosystem at large).
So you see? Co-ops are a collaborative way of making better coffee for a better world—for farmers and us too.
Be sure to check out Timely’s limited micro-lots from some cool co-ops.