Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
I and Unión MicroFinanza Director of Operations Patrick Hughes are attending the Chicago Coffee Fest this weekend. The festival is world renowned and is designed to help attendees refine and build their specialty coffee business through education, training, booths, events and workshops. The festival is held on Chicago's Navy Pier: http://www.coffeefest.com
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
This video is produced by UMF Manager of Community Relations, Daniel Schwartz.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Gilberto or Huracán! (Hurricane) as he is at times enthusiastically called by his fellow staff members, has an enormous amount of energy that translates into the zeal that he has for his family, community and work for Union MicroFinanza (UMF). Now 37 years old he was born and raised in La Union. He attend the local colegio (high school) were he received a degree as a social promoter. For Gilberto this has led to a life of serving his community. He has worked on numerous development projects and with other NGOs before his time with UMF.
By Andrew Boyd
Friday, February 11, 2011
A new year is well underway! UMF has been in operation for over a year with amazing success. However, before I expand on that success and the future vision for La Union and our organization’s place in it, I would like to pause to give you a more intimate picture of the UMF team. Who is this unique team of Hondurans and Gringos that have dedicated their lives to the growth and prosperity of La Union region of Honduras? What motivates them? Who are they individually? And, how do they work together to reach the farmers, families and communities of La Union, Honduras? Through individual stories, introductions, pictures, and quotes, I will spend the rest of the month of February answering these questions and many more. I hope through it all you get to know “us” better and by doing so feel that you yourself are or can be a part of our team and the vision for La Union and Honduras.
I will begin by say this -living out our dream is one of the hardest things any one of us on the UMF team has ever done. At times, living out our dream means long days, low wages and seeing our families and friends only a few times a year.
In our first year of operation, we as a team took a vow of poverty - meaning that our entire staff would make minimum wage or below. Our gringo staff in Honduras made 1/3 of the monthly minimum wage. Our US Director made 1/6 of the minimum wage based on a 40 our work week in the US and our Honduran staff made minimum wage. We as a team did this so in our first year we could get as many loans to the farmers of La Union as possible and buy as much coffee as we could for shipment to the US.
Besides this we have experienced all the hardships and growing pains of starting a new business, especially one in a down economy. You may be asking yourself at this point, why go through all the trouble?
The truth is, not a single one of us would give it up. Living out our dream is truly astounding and it is just that, it is our dream. We cannot image wanting to do anything other than what we are doing now. We are excited and proud of what we’ve accomplished in a year. We have been blessed with the resources that we have received and most of all feel led and inspired to work with and serve the people of La Union.
For us, no two days are ever the same. Monday may require filling coffee sales orders, Tuesday may start with a discussion about how to best incentivize early repayment on microloans, followed by a Wednesday filled with both national and international shipping logistics for microlots of coffee. The pace never slows down. From this work, though, everything accomplished is our own creation—made by our ideas, and our hands -- formed through close and personal relationships with farmers, families and communities in Honduras. More importantly, this community has become our home--cultural differences have become habits. We laugh together, eat together and live our lives together. We share in the hardships of agricultural production with our farmers, and we rejoice with them in the accomplishments, innovations and growing prosperity.
For our team, while living a dream may have its hardships, the rewards are far greater. We are ready to take our mission to the next step, but first more about us….
Up Next: An Introduction of Gilberto Hernandez
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
I will be the first to admit that in today’s coffee world, where you can find anything from Organic to Fair Trade to Bird Friendly-certified coffee, the last thing most people want to worry about is another coffee certification. But before you give up on this blog, what do you really know about the Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or Bird Friendly Certified coffee that you bought this morning? The whole point of certifying a coffee is that the end consumer knows that certain standards have been met, but these standards are often so complex that it would take a college course to understand them all. There is a certification just starting to grow in the coffee world that is refreshingly simple and, in my opinion, much more beneficial to farmers: Direct Trade Coffee.
There are three simple guiding principles behind Direct Trade Coffee:
(1) High wages.
(2) High quality.
(3) Direct purchasing through a relationship between farmer and buyer.
Since Direct Trade is a new idea, these ideals manifest themselves in different ways. Industry leaders like Counter Culture Coffee, Intelligentsia, and Stump Town Coffee Roasters each have their own standards for what these principles mean, but these standards all include a minimum purchase price, minimum cup quality, and minimum amount of contact between farmer and the company. Although Counter Culture may set quality standards based upon their proprietary tasting system, while Intelligentsia bases it on their own system, these companies are establishing their own set of guidelines they think best fulfill the three guiding principles.
In my mind, Direct Trade is the logical step forward from the current obsession with Fair Trade. First, Direct Trade is set up so that buyers, not farmers, pay fees. Fair Trade, on the other hand, requires large up-front costs from the farmers themselves. This policy actually excludes the small-scale, independent farmers that consumers often associate with the Fair Trade logo!
Second, Direct Trade is more sustainable. Since Direct Trade is as focused on quality as it is on price, it gives farmers a reason to continually improve their coffee growing and harvesting techniques. Fair Trade certification says nothing about the quality of the coffee. As such, people often end up paying a premium for inferior coffee grown by a large coffee plantation that can cover Fair Trade Certification costs. At least it has a Fair Trade Certified sticker on the bag, I guess.
Finally, even though we may just be “average coffee drinkers,” we should still have the opportunity to learn how our morning coffee got to where it is today. When buying a Direct Trade coffee, coffee shops will know if it came from a small-scale, independent farmer or a large-scale plantation, how much was paid for the coffee, and probably more than we would ever actually care to find out. With this knowledge, it is no longer coffee intermediaries, exporters or importers, or even local coffee shops that determine who we buy our coffee from and how much we pay them. It is us, the coffee drinkers of the world, that get to make this important choice.
For more information check out these websites: