March 13, 2018
The Women’s Building of San Francisco is the oldest (since 1979!) women-owned and -operated community center in the country. Each year they welcome over 25,000 women and their families, connecting them with social services, community involvement opportunities, the arts, wellness, and educational events.
It also has a rad mural that covers two sides of the building and reaches five stories high. You’ve biked by it; you know what we’re talking about.
This Thursday, March 8th, Four Barrel Coffee pitched in. We donated all proceeds from our batch brew sales, all day, to The Women’s Building. You can still donate or learn more about this incredible organization at womensbuilding.org.
We’ve hosted date-specific donations before: There was the Thanksgiving Day Standing Rock donation, the Inauguration Day Planned Parenthood donation, and ACLU’s Immigrant Support Day. Like those donation days, the impetus for this one originated with our baristas and roasters.
Those same coworkers have continued to inspire us over this last month with their unwavering good spirts and unimpeachable work ethics. A few have added to their already-packed calendars by generously contributing to the Safe Workspace task force. A couple others have completed a line-by-line revision of what is now a 36-page Coworker Policy document.
All this hard work won’t mean anything unless it’s sustainably manifested in facticity. To that end, we’ve solicited all kinds of input. We’ve listened to and read a term’s worth of homework from corporate responsibility consultants, hospitality associations, and alternative business structure experts. And to be honest, we’re still taking it all in. We’re making lists of pros and cons, running numbers, and then asking for more details. There are big decisions ahead, and we want to do this responsibly.
Throughout all of this research and soul-searching, we’re keeping in touch with our coffee producing partners throughout the world. We really believe that the work we do in Central America and East Africa is changing lives for the better. That’s why we do it.
We buy incredible green coffee and ensure that its producers get paid. The Four Barrel sourcing program remains impeccable. Growers, pickers, sorters, millworkers… these are the people whose livelihoods hang in the balance from year to year. We cherish the relationships we’ve forged with these workers, and we’re incredibly grateful to share in their harvests.
Their dedication and handiwork shine through in a unique coffee called Ethiopia Biftu Gudina. Only a few years ago, in 2012, this was just the beginning of a co-op. The good people at international NGO Technoserve introduced us to them, so we had visited a few times very early in their process—when they were just building out their mill, before they’d even received their first cherry, much less tasted their own washed coffee. We agreed with Technoserve, and more importantly, we agreed with the families of Biftu Gudina themselves, that someday all this work and risk would pay off. If they could succeed at establishing their own mill, this remote community stood to vastly improve their lives.
That was just five years ago. Since then, we've supported them by buying as much of their coffee as we could. We funded the position of a harvest assistant / temporary agronomist to get them over some speed-bumps a couple years ago. And we keep visiting a couple times a year, as much as we can.
As long as their coffee keeps improving, they will be able to sell it for higher prices, and keep a greater share of that cut. If that means we end up paying more for coffee from Biftu Gudina, so much the better. We feel the same way about paying our coworkers. The price of living in the Bay Area keeps climbing, and government safety nets keep thinning. Small businesses like Four Barrel need to step in and ensure that baristas receive at least a living wage and a modicum of health care.
We’re not about to give up on either side of that equation—supporting our growing partners abroad, and supporting our coworkers here at home. Whatever our next step turns out to be, we’re going to do right by our business partners, our coworkers, and the coffee producers who make it all happen. And we’re definitely not going to stop donating to organizations like The Women’s Building, now or ever.