I can show [farmers] how we have been doing things,” said Victor Trejos, general manager of Hacienda Alsacia. “How we have been planting, how we fertilize, soil tests … and how they can do the same.”
The farm includes 14 hectares dedicated to research. It’s a testing ground to push the boundaries of agronomy research to breed trees that are resistant to coffee leaf rust, or roya, which is ravaging coffee crops in Latin America. The team also analyzes soil, fine tunes pruning techniques, and supports farmers in other ways to increase coffee trees’ quality and productivity. Its findings aren’t kept in a company vault; they are shared freely with researchers and farmers everywhere.
To date, Starbucks has trained more than 52,000 farmers with free access to education and resources through its Farmer Support Centers, with a goal of reaching 200,000 farmers by 2020. Its aspiration is to make coffee the world’s first sustainably sourced agricultural product.
But for Rodriguez, the accomplishment is best measured one farm, one farmer at a time.
“To me, as a professional, as a partner, it’s the best part really when you start working with a particular farmer and see that they are improving their living conditions and being able to keep producing coffee as a good business,” he said. “That’s the best. It’s really something that motivates us."