With a fixed-price contract we can invest in our farm': how Joe Coffee and the Guarnizo family work together to ensure everyone wins

Among the highlands of the municipality of Tarqui, Huila, you find a group of farms owned by ten siblings, the Guarnizo Family. They are composed of nine males and Orfandy, the only female and the heart of the family. Each member of the family has its own farm, with their own families, some of them are neighbors, creating a village of just the family, and some of them lie on more remote areas of the municipality, but the nine of them have the same objective, produce some of the best coffee of Tarqui. The Guarnizo Family has always been an example of family work, union, and partnership. Wilmar, one of the Guarnizo brothers, inherited farm La Vega from his father in 2002 with not even one coffee tree in the land. At that time, some of his brothers were already growing coffee, so he took advantage of the experience and ‘know how’ that his family had, to start growing his very first coffee trees on his own. Today, coffee is the main source of income of all ten of them.

   10 Minutes Read

Searching for Good Prices, Lacking Consistency

The Guarnizo Family used to sell their coffee to the cooperative that would pay the best price at that moment. They used to travel with their coffee from cooperative to cooperative and from municipality to municipality, to see who to sell their coffee to. Sometimes, they even decided to wait for months with their coffee stored at the farms, waiting for the international market price to raise, so they could sell the coffee in a fair price for them. One day, they decided to become members of the Organización ASOPROCAFÉ EL PARAISO, one of the cooperatives in charge of commercializing coffee in Tarqui, in search of better opportunities, better prices, and to see if someday they could meet one exporter who could pay higher prices. This was when Wilmar Guarnizo met Caravela Coffee. He told his brothers that he might have found the place to sell their coffee, but it had to be specialty coffee, which they were not sure if their product qualified in this category. In Caravela, we noticed not only that their coffee had high potential, but we find a beautiful family business where every single brother was willing to help the rest, they were moved by the same interests.

 

When we first visit the Guarnizo Family, we encountered ourselves with a series of problems. They were very disorganized, they were not keeping record of fermentation times, nor drying times and they were picking all the cherries, not caring of the ripeness level. Their processes weren’t standardized; therefore, there was no consistency. Sometimes, they delivered amazing coffee, and sometimes the coffee wasn’t that good. We couldn’t understand why, until we visit them and noticed that they had no consistency on their processes. They had all the traditional varieties that facilitate the production of specialty coffee, but they didn’t know what to do with them, they didn’t have the right processes.

From this moment, we started working hand in hand with the Guarnizo Family, implementing better practices on their harvest and post-harvest processes and training producers so they could manage their farms more efficiently. They started to work as a team, as a family, involving, not only their brothers, but their own wives and children. The ones that learned more, would go to the other siblings and would give them the technical advices that Caravela would give them. They just had to pay more attention in the harvesting and selection of cherries and carry out a careful and slow drying process. We noticed how the quality was dramatically improving in all the ten farms. It was like a “domino effect!”

 

Joe Coffee Company meets the Guarnizos

Three years ago, Ed Kaufmann, Director of Sourcing in Joe Coffee Company and Wilmar Guarnizo met for the first time to start a prosperous and long-lasting relationship. “Ed said he was fascinated with my farm and with my coffee, so he offered me a fixed-price contract,” remembered Wilmar. Ed Kaufmann said, “We bought our first Guanizo coffee about 5 years ago from Wilmar.  It was a lovely little microlot that we featured on our single origin menu. From there, I expressed my satisfaction with the coffee to Badi and he kept sending me more coffees from the family. […] In 2014, I visited Tarqui to familiarize myself with El Paraiso and meet the Guarnizos. It was shortly after that visit that we came up with the fixed-price contract that we just signed for a 3rd year.” Ed loved the profile of this coffee, he loved the region, and he fell in love with the Guarnizo family. “We consider the Guarnizo family to be part of the extended Joe family, featuring their wonderful coffees throughout the year and paying them a visit when we can.” Ed continues, “We loved this coffee because it was sweet and syrupy.  It is a coffee that has something for many different coffee drinkers as the flavor profile have a nice sugary foundation but also features big, round acidity reminiscent of mango and grapefruit.  The balance of these is key for the success of this coffee. It is very consistent from harvest to harvest too which is important to our customers”. He continues, “At first, I knew that they produced great coffee and that we were looking for great producers to align with as we established and strengthened our supply chains, early on as a roasting company.  It was a bit risky for both of us to go into this fixed price contract but we all went along with it.  The second year I visited them and every year since, I have seen the way that they reinvest the profits of their business with the planting of more prized cultivars like Geisha and Yellow Caturra.  They have purchased more land to grow their volume capacity.  It’s very refreshing to see small improvements each year.  They are very smart producers and are constantly trying to improve.”

 

Testimonial of Wilmar, the Pilot of the Family

Today, the Guarnizo Family have become role models for the rest of the coffee growers in Tarqui. Now that they have fixed price contracts they can plan in advance and invest in their farms. They have improved not only the quality of their coffee but their farms, the infrastructure of their house, their lands, they have planted exotic varietals, and most important, they have worked all together to achieve what they are today. “We no longer worry about the international market price, we don’t care if it increases or if it drops, we know that we have our sales assured. Before, I didn’t have any certainty of selling my coffee. With a fixed price contract, we now have more things at our farm.” says Wilmar. He continues, “We have improved the quality of our coffee, we are now growing different varietals such as Geisha, Bourbon, Laurina. I’ve noticed how I’ve improved the cup quality.”

 

Wilmar is the pilot of the whole family; he took the role of a leader; he guides and educated all his brothers in the processes. They sometimes even share their fermentation and drying stations with each other. “We are ten siblings. When there is still few coffee in trees, at the beginning or the end of the harvest, we all go to each other’s farms and help in the picking and post-harvest processes,” says Wilmar. The Guarnizo Family is an example of union; they show that teamwork makes anything possible. In Wilmar’s home, everyone is involved. His wife Tania and his daughter take care of the fermentation, hand-sorting and selection of cherries, and of the drying stations, while Wilmar, with the help of his brothers, take care of the coffee trees, growing new varietals, and conservations of forests. Wilmar, Jose Javier and Yimi even like to roast their coffee and try it before taking it to the warehouse as they already know something about cupping and recognizing good characteristics in coffee.

 

Both Parts Benefit from the Relationship

The most beautiful thing about this relationship is that Joe Coffee Company get to see, year after year, with their own eyes the success and the progress that the Guarnizo family has had. The Joe Coffee Company team has been able to experience the progress and all the improvements with the family, and all that progress, thanks to the excellent prices that they decided to offer.  Ed said, “One of the things that I’m proud of in this relationship is that the family and Joe negotiated the prices on the contract together with Caravela helping.  It is set up in a way that makes sure they can be paid a consistent amount that is high enough for them to run a successful coffee farming business while the prices on our end allow us to run a profitable coffee roasting business.” But, what makes Caravela so proud of this relationship is that it has not only benefited the coffee growers, but also our customer, Joe Coffee Company. Ed added, “We think that having a good amount of information and connection with the people that grow our coffee is important.  Here in the US, there is a big push by the consumers to know the sources of what they eat and drink.  We are so proud to be able to celebrate this relationship especially over the course of the years we have purchased coffee from the family.  In a somewhat direct way, it enhances the customer experience when they work with us or come to our shops. We like to think of ourselves as hospitalitarians who are also coffee geeks.”

 

Results

In the last 5 years, the volumes delivered by the Guarnizo Family to Caravela has increased in 193%. Today, the family not only has more land than five years ago, but they are more productive and efficient. Today, they know how to take better care of their coffee trees, protect them from pest and diseases in a proper and sustainable way. In fact, some of them even received the Rainforest Alliance Certification last year thanks to their commitment and responsibility to the environment. Wilmar and his brothers have a very special characteristic; they are very good observers. They always identify problems and improvement opportunities in their farms. When we go to their farms, we always find new strategies and things they do to improve their quality and be responsible with the environment. The Caravela team is always learning from the Guarnizo Family!

 

58% of the coffee delivered in 2017 by the Guarnizo Family was bought as AA or above. In the last five years, the AA and above coffee delivered by the family has increased in 111%. Regarding prices, in 2012, when the Guarnizo Family were starting to work with Caravela, they received, on average, farm-gate prices 33% above the “C” market. In 2017, they received farm-gate prices 46% above the “C” market.

 

We are very proud of how we have worked towards maintaining this relationship and to see how, three years later, this relationship is still fruitful. “Caravela has done tremendous work to facilitate and maintain this relationship by always giving us first look at microlots and being facilitators of the contracts between us and the Guarnizos.  In 2014, when I visited the family for the first time, we were having breakfast before driving up the mountain and I had an idea to have a fixed price contract so we “could all close our laptops and stop watching the market and do our jobs, growing coffee and roasting coffee”.  Most of the brothers were present and they agreed that it would be good to have a good, stable price. Caravela was integral in hammering out the details of the contract, gauging the necessary quality and quantities for the contracts.  The whole system has worked beautifully”.

 

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