Progeny Coffee: San Francisco-Based Small Business
Growing up as a fifth generation coffee farmer, Maria, the founder of Progeny Coffee, understands the work that goes into coffee farming, the delicate intricacies of the process. Maria's familiarity with the coffee world, also opened her eyes to a common disproportion between the price a cup of coffee is sold for at a cafe, and the price coffee farmers are actually able to sell their coffee for. A specialty coffee pour over, might go for $8 in the US, but coffee farmers are often only able to sell their coffee for 20% below profit margin.
Searching for a solution to the problem, Progeny Coffee spent four years traveling the country of Colombia, conducting research and interviewing successful and struggling coffee farmers, to help them better understand the current chain.
They discovered the cause for this disparity in several places. First, most Colombian farmers rely on cooperatives to sell their coffee. Cooperatives assist farmer's in getting their beans to market, they centralize bean processing, and negotiate the selling price of coffee beans for small coffee farmers.
Traditionally, specialty coffee requires a higher selling price because it entails more work than traditional coffee does. Cooperatives are beneficial, however, according to Progeny's research, the corporations often don't pay the adequate amount they need for their coffee, while often subjecting farmers to market pricing, which is heavily influenced by worldwide production.
If there's a greater amount of industrialized countries producing coffee, it leads to a lower selling price. In order to make ends meet, coffee farmers will then exploit their land to produce more coffee, which in turn results in lower quality coffee.
Therefore, Progeny Coffee is on a mission to help farmers improve their farming methods. They do so by offering them access to education, and technical agricultural support to help their coffee achieve a specialty coffee score of 84 or above. Once a farmer achieves a coffee quality score of 84 or above, Progeny coffee is then able to distribute the farmer’s coffee through their distribution platform to their customers.
When farmers sell their coffee to Progeny, they offer the farmers a set price for their coffee based on the score of their coffee, rather than basing it off the fluctuating market price. This in turn provides a stable income for farmers. Through this method, Progeny Coffee has been able to double the income of 25 farmers.