Coffee and Guatemala
Coffee is a huge global industry worth over $200 billion a year, and it’s estimated that only 10% of that income goes to coffee producing countries. While it is a source of inspiration, daily ritual, and community for billions of drinkers around the world, it is all too often a source of economic precarity for farmers.
Coffee has been a major part of Guatemala’s economy since the late 1800s, and used to be its backbone for almost a century. Today’s economy is more diversified, but coffee is still one of the top exports by value. About 100,000 small farmers produce about half of the country’s coffee, meaning hundreds of thousands of people rely on this crop for their income.
Despite their decades-long experience in farming, coffee-producing communities continue to struggle economically, due to low prices, inconsistent production, and high volatility in prices.
In 2005, Franklin Voorhes was spending time in Guatemala as a volunteer when he met some coffee farmers from the town of San Miguel Escobar. They were looking for a way to organize themselves to turn coffee into a sustainable livelihood, and he was intrigued by the potential and wanted to help improve the quality of life of small producers
Together with 7 farmers they started processing their coffee and looking for markets for high-quality green and roast coffee. Out of that partnership, and many subsequent discussions and experiments, emerged the organization called (at that time) As Green As It Gets, and the cooperative that later became known as Café Artesanal San Miguel.
They worked collaboratively for a number of years to improve the quality of farmers’ coffee through better processing techniques and improving farmers and cooperative infrastructure. Over time, they realized that visitors from around the world visiting Antigua are interested to know where coffee comes from, and so they developed a tour based around small-scale coffee producers’ experiences, which evolved into our community tourism program.
In 2014, we embarked on our next phase, which involved reorganizing, refocusing, and rebranding the organization. We created De la Gente, a name that encapsulates our values and what we do. We specifically focused on the coffee value chain and related components, and began to work with more cooperatives and on a larger scale.
Today, De la Gente works with 5 cooperatives representing about 300 farmers, and delivers almost $500,000 in improved income to farming communities. We have been recognized for our coffee and quality of experiences we offer, and you can find our coffee with roasters around the US and Canada, or in our online shop.