We look at how the project, located in the remote region of Urrao, is tackling climate change and other coffee industry challenges.
BY VASILEIA FANARIOTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT
Photos courtesy of Verve Coffee Roasters
In recent years, coffee farmers around the world have been facing a number of challenges brought about by climate change, labor shortages, and supply chain issues. These challenges have made it difficult for many farmers to produce the high-quality coffee that consumers demand.
In response to these challenges, Verve Coffee Roasters has launched the Farmlevel Nursery Project, a coffee nursery in the remote region of Urrao, Colombia. The project is designed to help farmers in the area produce a high-quality, endemic coffee variety that can withstand the effects of climate change.
The project has been a success, and the first batch of coffee from the nursery was rolled out to customers last month. We chatted with Colby Barr, Verve Coffee Roasters co-founder and the head of the initiative, to learn more about the Farmlevel Nursery Project and its impact.
The Project’s Origin
The project started with a simple question: What can Verve do to help coffee farmers? The answer, according to Colby, was to focus on farmers’ needs.
“The most important thing for us from a social good perspective is giving farmers more access to incredible coffee—ultimately, allowing them to get paid more. We eliminate the high cost of seedlings by giving them to the farmers, and they already have the space and labor, so they can substantially grow their income by just having more coffee to sell and access to customers who want it. They just need the seedlings.“
Verve partnered with coffee farmers in Urrao to distribute 60,000 seedlings of Caturra Chiroso, an endemic coffee variety known for its high yield and excellent cupping quality. Many of these producers have been working with Verve for nearly 14 years, but the project strengthened some of those ties even further.
Of course, no such project is without its challenges. The biggest challenge of the Farmelevel Nursery Project for the Verve team was simply getting to Urrao. The region is remote and difficult to access, and the recent sociopolitical issues in Colombia have made it even more complicated.
“It’s difficult to get to under normal circumstances, but most recently the sociopolitical issues happening on the ground have impacted accessibility. However, we will support the farmers no matter what, and see this as a long-term partnership. Even if our team can’t get to the area this year, we will buy the coffee regardless and hopefully get back next year,” says Colby.
From Farmlevel to Streetlevel
Despite these challenges, feedback from the producers involved with the Farmlevel Nursery Project has been very positive. They are pleased with the quality of the seedlings and are excited about the potential for increased income from selling coffee.
Colby points out that there are organizations around the globe working to get producers seedlings, whether it is the various national coffee associations and research centers, or NGOs such as World Coffee Research.
“Our goal at Verve is to be a very specific representation of that effort with a curated group of high-elevation, high-quality producers who want to expand and grow incredibly interesting coffees, but need assistance with seedlings and access to the public marketplace,” Colby says. ”Farmlevel to Streetlevel.”
Securing the Future of Coffee
Following the success of the first phase of the Farmlevel Nursery Project, Verve is now looking to expand its impact by establishing a second nursery in Honduras. The new nursery will be part of the Farmlevel Initiative, a larger effort to help coffee farmers adapt to the challenges of climate change.
The Honduran project is still in the planning stages, but the goal is to get it established this winter and make it available for planting next year. Ten percent of the proceeds from Verve’s Farmlevel Nursery Project coffee will be used to support the Honduran nursery, as well as future projects under the Farmlevel Initiative.
Colby says the Farmlevel Initiative is about more than just coffee nurseries; it’s about giving farmers the tools and resources they need to adapt to a changing climate and secure coffee’s future. He explains, “Climate change affects everyone and requires shared knowledge and commitment to action. We are opening up lines of communication within our producer partner network so that information can be shared between everyone.”
This month, Verve is hosting its second Farmlevel Summit, bringing together all their producer farmers in Los Angeles. Discussion topics will include climate change, the future of the coffee industry, and ways in which Verve can continue to support farmers.
You can find out more about Verve’s Farmlevel Nursery Project here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vasileia Fanarioti (she/her) is a senior online correspondent for Barista Magazine, and a freelance copywriter and editor with a primary focus on the coffee niche. She has also been a volunteer copywriter for the I’M NOT A BARISTA NPO, providing content to help educate people about baristas and their work. You can follow her adventures at thewanderingbean.net.