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New Coffee Company Promises To Increase Farmers' Wages By 50%

For every $3 you spend on a cup of coffee, the farmer who grew the beans makes a paltry 3 cents. That’s because the coffee industry is full of middlemen. In general, you’ve got growers, processors, packagers, and multiple points of transportation, retail markets and consumers. But one company called Levanta seeks to change that by working directly with farmers and paying them a full 50 percent more than normal wages.

Coffee farmers number in the tens of millions. 

More than 25 million people around the world make their living by producing coffee; a process that involves preparing land, growing beans, and processing, drying, and sorting them by hand. Levanta—which in Spanish means “wake up” and “rise up”—was created by Matt Hohler and Robert Durrette in order to reward all of that work by paying sales prices to farmers that are 50 percent more than what they normally get (and more than double the increase “fair trade” offers to farmers). The company believes paying farmers more through this “social microlot model” will allow them to invest more into their farms. And that can only mean one thing: better coffee.

Levanta is all about the farmers. 

To get the business off the ground, Levanta has launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking to raise $35,000. And because the focus of Levanta is on coffee farmers, the Kickstarter page makes sure to chronicle the stories of the first two farmers Levanta is working with, Rosa Lloclla and Daniel Diaz. 

Rosa is a 42-year-old widow with three children, born and raised in the tiny village of Bajo Ihuamaca in Peru. Following her husband’s death, Rosa and her teenage son Nolberto worked together to make the family’s coffee plantation a success. She has the double responsibility of raising her children while also working as a female entrepreneur in an undervalued industry.

Daniel is a 40-year-old originally from Trujillo, Peru. His family moved into the Peruvian jungle when Daniel was still a child, and his family switched from coca harvesting to coffee farming when he was 15. Their farm is in the mountains over the city Moyobamba, at an elevation of 4,130 feet.

Daniel co-founded a coffee cooperative called Frutos de Selva, but his commitment to serving local farmers hurt his ability to maintain his own farm. Now, he needs to renovate and replant his plantation. And that’s where Levanta’s pay increase comes in.

The premise is simple: Work directly with the producers. 

Levanta will pay coffee farmers a 50 percent higher price, then ship coffee directly to consumers with minimal middlemen. And no more coffee farmers making a mere seven to 10 percent profit from each bag of coffee, or one percent from every cup of coffee sold at a café or restaurant.

The company’s coffee farmers are harvesting beans now through September in Northern Peru, and October through February in Honduras. Levanta’s partner-farmers and their supporting cooperatives will take care of getting everything ready for export by boat to New York, then down to Charlotte, North Carolina for roasting.

Once harvesting is completed, Levanta pays a second, direct payment to the farmers, which is what the company calls the “Levanta Bonus.” The Kickstarter campaign launched July 15 and runs through Aug. 20. The company has already raised more than 10,000 of its $35,000 goal.

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