900 Farms, One Brand

Today we visited our final coffee farm of the trip. However, this company had something different about it than the rest, this company was a cooperative. This means that the company consists of a group of farmers that all send their coffee to a central location that does the processing. They also pool resources and services together to try to make the highest quality product possible to sell. Coopedota, the cooperative company based out of Tarrazu, consists of 900 family run farms that all pull together to make Coopedota coffee. After touring Coopedota, I noticed advantages and disadvantages compared to a traditional company.

The main advantages of a cooperative that I noticed were to the quality, community, and environment. A way that the quality is maintained in a cooperative company is by only processing and roasting the coffee in one place. This means that all the coffee that is sold under the Coopedota brand can be guaranteed to have been made with the same quality standards they are shooting for. The community also benefits from being a part of the cooperative company. This is done by essentially allowing all of the families who own farms to be owners of the company. This allows for the small farms to still produce the amount of coffee they are capable of and get paid for what they make. Also, this allows for all of the farmers to work together and strive for making the best quality product they can as a region. Finally, I noticed that the cooperative system is good for the environment. Since all of the coffee is produced in one place, this allows for them to focus on the sustainability aspects of the production process and not have to worry about an absurd amount of unsustainable practices happening throughout the region. This takes the burden of worrying about being as sustainable as possible off of the farms so that they can only focus on making the best quality coffee and Coopedota can worry about making environmentally friendly practices. They have been quite successful at this by having very sustainable methods and also making the first carbon neutral coffee. Overall, there were many advantages I noticed throughout our tour of Coopedota today.

There were also some disadvantages of the cooperative model that I noticed. One major disadvantage is for the larger farms that are a part of the cooperative. This is because each of the farms gets an equal say on how the cooperative is run. This is seen as unfair to the larger farms because they produce a larger amount of coffee and want more of a say. However, this is done for the purpose that gives all of the farms incentives to join the cooperative. Another disadvantage that I noticed was that farms can only sell to Coopedota. This is a problem primarily for the larger farms because this does not allow them to sell to anyone else. This is an issue because they might want to sell to more corporations to make more money but because they are in the cooperative only have one choice to sell to. In general, the cooperative is very good for the small farms because of the resources and services they offer but the larger farms sometimes feel cheated or like they could be better off on their own but do not feel comfortable leaving and competing with Coopedota. This was the primary difference that I saw between the traditional companies and the cooperative.

Since Coopedota has been in operation since 1960, one could only wonder how the community of Santa Maria de Dota would be different without that model. I believe that the community would not be as tight-knit if the cooperative were not in place since all of the farms would be competing with each other. Also, I believe that the community would have turned into an area similar to that of Monteverde. This would be a region that has a deep history of coffee producing but has turned to the tourism market. Monteverde had a cooperative in the past, but when that dissolved and all of the farms were on their own, only the large survived and are still producing. I feel that the tourism industry would start to grow in Santa Maria de Dota if the cooperative were to dissolve. Overall, I feel that the cooperative has more upsides for the community than downsides and has allowed a strong history of coffee growing to continue to the future generations.

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