Coffee is cultivated in tropical regions, roughly 20 degrees north and south of the Equator. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, exporting over a third of the global supply.

70% of all coffee is produced by small family farmers who have fewer than 25 acres of land. Many of those, such as farmers in Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest countries, have fewer than five acres, and it’s common for a farmer’s land to be several miles from his home.

The vast majority of coffee (90%) is grown in developing countries. In these remote regions, farmers get little, if any, support or services from their government. They may not have roads, schools, or direct access to potable water. The average coffee farmer earns just $300/year from coffee production, making it very difficult (if not impossible) to survive without additional sources of income.

But when a farmer belongs to a fair trade cooperative, there are many benefits. Cooperatives often provide resources the government does not. The Cecocafen coop in Nicaragua has built schools and roads in coffee-growing areas, amenities that benefit entire communities, not just the coffee farmers. The farmers of Maya Vinic in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico are able to run a cafe to highlight their coffee locally. Membership in a coop means farmers can export their coffee themselves, substantially increasing their revenue, and their entire villages experience an increase in quality of life because of the support provided by the coop.

Higher Grounds believes that we cannot do good business without it being good—both beneficial and sustainable—for the farmers, without whom we would have no coffee to roast. That’s why we purchase from coffee cooperatives that provide resources and support to their members, ensuring healthier, more resilient farming communities.