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By Michelle Fish

One thing we do that nobody else does, to our knowledge, is bring one of our coffee producing partners with us when we visit a Farm-Direct prospect. And It’s powerful, both for us, and for the farm we’re visiting.

The advantages for us are obvious, I think. A knowledgeable coffee farmer that shares our values (aka our partner) can look at the operations of another coffee farm with a much deeper understanding than Bob and I can. Their understanding enhances our understanding, and it helps us make better decisions.

Farm-Share

Wana Chipoya, our Partner in Ndola, Zambia, sharing ideas about pruning with OBIIS prospects in Kenya.

Farmer to Farmer

But for the coffee farmer we’re visiting, it’s also an incredible opportunity. Coffee farming is actually pretty isolating, particularly for some of the smaller farms that we visit. You don’t get out much, as the saying goes, because your farm needs you 365 days a year. And you don’t meet many people who are facing the same challenges that you are.

And then OBIIS shows up, almost like we’re from outer space, with another coffee farmer, most likely from a completely different part of the world. We’ve witnessed some truly amazing conversations and connections. The opportunity provided by the cross-pollination of ideas and knowledge of new agricultural practices is palpable.

Farm-Share

From L-R: Bob, Julius (the Head Agronomist), Wana, Heather Zink of BIGGBY COFFEE, Michelle (me), and Rich Schaasfma from Paramount Coffee in the nursery at the Gorongosa Project in Mozambique in 2023.

The Same Challenges

While we were visiting a very promising prospect in Mozambique earlier this year, we brought our friend and partner Wana Chipoya, the producer at Living Hope in Zambia, along with us.

When he met Julius, the head agronomist of the coffee project at Gorongosa National Park, the two of them fell down the best kind of rabbit hole of conversations. For three days, they talked nonstop about the challenges that each of them face on their own farms.

They were the same challenges! And Wana had solutions for some of the most intractable problems the farmers in Gorongosa were tackling. In a few weeks, we’re headed back to Mozambique with Wana. They’ve been implementing his suggestions over the last year, and we’re looking forward to seeing the progress.

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The team at Gorongosa, getting ready to spray Neem Oil, an organic pest solution recommended by Wana.

The same dynamic has happened with our friend and partner, Dr. Jorge Ferrey, from El Recreo in Nicaragua. He has walked fields with us in many countries. And he shared his knowledge and wisdom with dozens and dozens of small producers.

Sierra Leone

Jorge, with Kadiatu Allie, walking the fields in Sierra Leone.

This year, we took our newest partner, Al Lopez, along with us as we visited a prospect in the Huehuetenango region of Guatemala. The prospect is actually a network of four farms, owned by three brothers and a cousin.

As our partner, Al was able to share his invaluable insight about what it’s like to work with OBIIS. And he also coached them on the mechanics of running a family business, and how they might pull together to be stronger as a team.

It remains to be seen whether or not they will be able to implement his advice. But they were hungry for the knowledge. And without Al with us, we wouldn’t have been able to have the same kind of impact.

There is nothing that compares with hearing the truth from another coffee farmer.

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Al in the coffee fields of the Del Valle family in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

Smarter and Stronger Together

Another component of Farmshare is something that we learned from BIGGBY COFFEE’S Franchisees. One of the hallmarks of a successful franchise company is how connected Franchisees are to each other. They learn from one another, they support one another, and they are all smarter and stronger together because of their interconnection.

Farm-Share

Presenting together at the Producer Roaster Forum in 2024 in Guatemala.

Similarly, we are fostering that kind of environment among our Farm-Direct partners. We encourage them to visit each other’s farms, and spend time learning from one another, and supporting one another.

That kind of sharing makes us all smarter and stronger.

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