A Mountain of Challenge
If you are a farmer of speciality coffee, your crop grows in the mountains. The higher up, the better. But, of course, the higher up, the more difficult the road to work.
And there are other challenges. Unlike a vintner, who knows the taste of his or her wine, your beans are roasted thousands of miles away, differently by different roasters. You can't possibly know enough about how your coffee tastes to the consumer.
Oh, and there's more.
Much specialty coffee is grown by small farmers who face extraordinary economic challenges. Dependent on an annual harvest that is priced at distant, giant commodity markets, the farmers must meet daily obligations as they raise their own families.
And there's weather. While macro changes in patterns are causing concern, even ordinary fluctuations in each farmer's micro-climate can jeopardize a year's crop.
This is too much uncertainty for farmers. The coffee supply chain starts here — and it starts with too much uncertainty.
So what happened?
Sustainable Harvest, speciality coffee importers, have developed Relationship Coffee, an alternative business model to the traditional coffee supply chain. Leveling the playing field for coffee farmers, importers, and roasters, Relationship Coffee connects growers to markets through direct relationships, training, technology, and management systems.
At Let's Talk Coffee 2011 in Salinitas, El Salvador, Sustainable Harvest hosted 400 coffee farmers, importers, roasters, and other players in the specialty coffee industry.
In a keynote presentation, I trained the entire group in creativity and collaboration skills.
Then, we immediately applied the skills.
The attendees were divided into 40 small brainstorm groups, led by facilitators and scribes (who I had trained in advance) to address the key questions facing the industry (which we had determined through an advance survey of the attendees).
Thousands of ideas surfaced. The variety of ideas was breathtaking: from old stand-bys to ideas whose novelty and promise made everyone smile.
Now, of course, work is being done to categorize the ideas and determine which will receive follow-up attention.
- Your conference attendees don't just want to be talked to, they want to help address industry challenges and opportunities.
- Creativity training and brainstorming can help your attendees propose answers, and — in the brainstorm process — form a stronger industry community through their collaboration.
We can gather your conference attendees, train them in creative exploration, and ask them the questions they need to answer for their own businesses and lives. Along the way, we can warmly encourage them.