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Grow Ahead: Lend Money to Fund Your Daily Cup of Coffee

Grow Ahead: Lend Money to Fund Your Daily Cup of Coffee Image

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How long does it take to make your morning cup of coffee?

Perhaps your answer is that the timer starts sometime before your alarm goes off; you set it so long ago that you no longer remember when. Perhaps you know that the extraction time for your favorite espresso clocks in at 18 seconds. Perhaps you're a slow brew aficionado, waiting 4 minutes for the perfect pourover. All of those are one answer; another is much longer, counted in months, not minutes.

All over Central America and Mexico, coffee cherries are beginning to ripen, cherries that just might make it to your mug some time next summer. Those cherries are themselves the product of flowers that bloomed some time late last spring after the rainy season passed—from the first flush of blossoms to the ripe fruit, it takes the coffee seed about 9 months to mature. Add to that a few months for processing and shipping, and it takes a coffee farmer approximately a year to reap the payoff for your morning fix.

Bridging that gap from production to payday is one of the challenges that small-scale farmers face. That challenge that is multiplied by the fact that small holders often lack the traditional collateral required by conventional lenders. No collateral means no credit, or cash that comes with exorbitant interest rates.

As committed fair traders, we've long been convinced that helping farmers break free from unfair credit terms is part of building a long-term sustainable coffee supply chain. Pre-harvest financing is an integral aspect of our work, meaning that we seek out financial partners to assist us in advancing a percentage of the cost of each container of coffee to the farmer cooperative. That line of credit enables the association to purchase beans from its members, putting cash into their hands more quickly and allowing them to continue to invest in quality coffee.

Now we are offering you the opportunity to join us: we are proud to be partners in a pilot project that is set to revolutionize the future of sustainable coffee financing. The Grow Ahead foundation brings crowd-funding to your morning cup of coffee. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares have introduced the idea of consumers participating in the costs of the harvest cycle; Grow Ahead scales that concept up to the coffee supply chain. Unlike a CSA, you choose how much you put in, and you get your money back at the end of the season!

The process is simple: create an online account and review the coffee shipments that are awaiting funding. Your loan gets bundled with those of your friends, associates, and other coffee drinkers across North America and advanced to the farmer co-op. Once the harvest cycle is complete and the shipment has been received, your loan will be refunded to your account. From there, you can choose to help finance another container, or to withdraw or donate your funds to support Grow Ahead's operations. Throughout the process, loans up to $200,000 are guaranteed by the Progreso Foundation, a European financial group with a long history of supporting fair trade initiatives.

The inaugural funding project is to raise $60,000 to purchase a container of coffee from APECAFORM. This first shipment has special significance to us as APECAFORM is our longest standing trading partner; we've been working together for well over a decade and it is their delicious beans that make up our flagship Guatemalan Dark Roast, one of our perennial top-sellers.

We encourage you to loan what you can, even as little as $25 helps us towards our goal. Loan the retail cost of a cup of coffee a week for a year ($100) and you'll get a bag of coffee for your support. Share the idea with your congregation, class, or office group—we welcome loans from organizations or individuals. To see the details and join the future of sustainable coffee, check out the website

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