MEET THE SLOW FARMERS!
Slow farmers are the backbone of Slow’s sustainable coffee.
Click through to visit any of their farms and learn more.
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HOW WE WORK TOGETHER
WE MAINTAIN ON-THE-GROUND PRESENCE IN LAOS
We don’t do sourcing trips – we stick around! (With a team of 30+!)
The Slow farmers are supported by our on-the-ground team, consisting of coffee growing-, community engagement and forestry experts.
This is one of our most important principles at Slow – we believe that to form true partnerships with farmers, we need to be there together through thick and thin, and solve problems in a locally-led, ’bottom-up’ manner. Keeping a presence in Laos is also the only way we can guarantee full transparency to our customers.
Believe it or not, 99% of coffee companies do not operate in this way (not even the other sustainable ones!)!
WE NEED TO FOCUS ON BIG VOLUME, AT A DECENT PRICE – TO TRULY INCREASE INCOME
A typical Slow farmer will produce 10% of Typica (a highly coveted varietal commanding very high prices), and 90% of Catimor (a good varietal, often ending up on the commodity market.
To solve the farmers’ income problems, we need to focus on the majority of the volume of the coffee they produce. That’s why we buy all types of coffee at a good price – not just the cream of the crop at a very high price, which is the traditional solution proposed by most high-end, sustainable coffee players.
The Slow way is a more inclusive and democratic model: Most farmers cannot produce only extremely high quality coffee, that is simply not how coffee growing works. In the same way, most consumers and businesses cannot buy only extremely high quality coffee, that is simply not the market demand.
STABILIZING INCOMES IS AS IMPORTANT AS INCREASING INCOMES
The coffee harvest is only once a year. For Slow farmers, this also means that under normal circumstances, they only get paid once a year!
This can lead to planning and cash-management difficulties – after all, it is pretty difficult to imagine getting paid only once a year! Low cash right before the harvest can also cause farmers to make sub-optimal sales decisions (e.g., selling coffee cherries before processing them, just get some emergency cash).
That’s why we buy all types of coffee at a good price – not just the cream of the crop at a very high price, which is the traditional solution proposed by most high-end, sustainable coffee
In addition, to reduce risk. we do not expose Slow farmers to price-swings of coffee. We pay a fixed minimum price that is compatible to the Fairtrade standards, so that the farmers can count on the minimum of income they get.
DIVERSIFYING THE SOURCES OF INCOME IS AS IMPORTANT AS INCREASING INCOMES
For many of the Slow farmers, over 90% of income is received through coffee. This exposes them to a wide variety of risks such as weather- and pest-related events and market price swings (that is, if they were selling to others than Slow, we do pay a fixed price).
In order to reduce income risk, we are slowly implementing a fruit-tree and honey project, to add more commodities into the Slow farmers’ product basket. Eventually, they will be able to sell these through their collective. In addition, by farming more products, they will receive more income for each hectare of land.
Furthermore, even for coffee, we do not want to be the only buyer of their beans (no business should be dependent on only one buyer, and this applies to the Slow farmers as well!). That is why we are working with selected strategic partners, to find additional purchasers for the Slow farmers’ green beans.
EACH SLOW FARMER IS A MICRO-ENTREPRENEUR
Slow farmers wet-mill and dry their coffee in their own micro processing units and have individual buying contracts
Each Slow farmer has their own micro wet-milling unit, fermentation tank and drying tables.
Processing the coffee further besides just picking berries results in a higher economic value-add for the Slow farmers, and provides a greater sense of ownership for the product.
In addition, we have individual annual contracts and direct payments between Slow and every Slow farmer, to increase sense of security and ownership. This is how they prefer it and this is how we do it!
The Slow farmers’ way of working together is very different from the traditional farmers’ cooperative model, where thousands of farmers all mix their coffee together, and it is processed at a