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Of course, this was in the context of mutual funds, portfolios and making money in the stock market. At the same time, I was reviewing the article in this month’s Roast titled “Farmworkers in the Coffeelands.” If it weren’t so sad, the stark contrast between what is considered “risk” and what is considered “reward” to a financial investor and a coffee farmworker would be almost laughable.
Coffee farmworkers—the ones who harvest the cherry, who prune, who fertilize and perform all the difficult labor required to make a farm successful—are the least visible, least recognized people in the seed-to-cup chain. They are also too often the most vulnerable.
As the problems are varied, from squalid living conditions to a lack of proper health care to restrictions in freedoms for migrant workers, so must the solutions be varied as well. Certifications play a role, as do direct trade relationships, market stability for farmers and educating consumers about why it is important not to drive their decisions based on price. I do not have a golden solution, only that we all must see the problems.
Every service or product maintains a fine balance between the cost to produce and the price the market will bear. Each participant who contributes to the final product, to the cup of coffee many of us enjoy every morning, has a right to a living wage and humane working conditions. Our jobs are to make sure that better conditions for workers are tied to better quality coffee that fetches a higher price for farmers and for roasters. In the end, if we do our jobs well, consumers will pay a higher price for a better cup of coffee, and they will understand how the price and the quality tie back to those who work the farms.
It is also important to understand that there are many farms across the world where workers, both permanent and migratory, are treated as well or better than any of our own employees. Just as we need to shine a light on the problems facing farmworkers, we also need to shine a light on the farms that should be held up as examples.
I hope you find this month’s issue as thought provoking as I do, and that we all reconsider what it means to be rewarded for the risks we take.
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