A Back to School Story: Making a Difference for A Coffee Farmer's Daughter
It's back to school for millions of American children. As parents savor their morning cup of coffee, here is a heartwarming story of how a relationship with two American women enabled a Panamanian coffee farmers' daughter to attend school for the first time. Equator Coffees' CEO Helen Russell blogs about how her company is making a difference on their coffee farm, Finca Sofia, in Panama.
There are many reasons why we love running a coffee company. One is watching top chefs fall hopelessly in love with our single origin blends. Another is leveraging our business to create social change. In our 16 years roasting coffee for restaurants and cafes, we’ve focused as much on social equity as we have quality in the cup, because the two issues are intimately connected. To get closer to the family farmers upon whose labor we depend to grow our coffees, we’ve supported social enterprise pioneers such as Sustainable Harvest and mission-critical projects such as Women in Coffee. Now we’ve taken an even more hands-on approach.
Last week Brooke and I returned from our coffee farm in Panama, Finca Sofia. Since we purchased the farm in 2008, we’ve made great progress. On this visit, we saw that we have still far to go. We inaugurated our safe, comfortable and eco-friendly worker housing, washed our first cherries from our rare Geisha plants, and saw the progress on our farm, which we’re stewarding as a labor of love in order to grow the best coffee in the world. From the beginning, when we’ve said “best” coffee, we’ve not only meant taste, but coffee that is grown with the best practices to support the environment, community, and workers.
One of my proudest moments on the farm thus far was seeing one of our farm workers’ daughters, Angelica, beat the tremendous odds stacked against her: we watched her as she rode her horse down a tree-lined dirt road, on her way to school for the first time.
What odds did Angelica have to beat? More than anyone could imagine.