Raúl Del Águila Hidalgo, Nuestro Compadre

Ing. Raúl Del Aguila

FEBRUARY 13, 2013

We are sad to report that Sr. Raúl Del Águila, the general manager of the COCLA cooperative in Quillabamba, Peru, passed away on February 13, 2013, while working in Germany. He was a true visionary and a great man. Raúl was the co-founder and the president of Pachamama Coffee Cooperative in the USA. It was his dream to connect the producers and consumers of specialty coffee through an efficient cooperative supply chain.

Here is the official announcement from COCLA:

La Central de Cooperativas Agrarias Cafetaleras Cocla Ltda N° 281 manifiesta su tristeza y profundo pesar en comunicar al Gremio Cafetalero Peruano, que como consecuencia de una paro cardíaco el día de ayer 13 de febrero del 2013 en Alemania falleció el Gerente General de nuestra institución


“Sin duda, nuestra empresa ha sufrido una sensible pérdida, una gran persona que ha realizado grandes cambios no sólo en nuestra institución sino a nivel de todo el gremio, luchando día a día por fortalecimiento Cooperativo, lo consideramos un genio y creativo, el mundo ha perdido a un talentoso ser humano. Raúl Del Águila deja una institución que sólo él podría haber desarrollado y su espíritu estará siempre en los cimientos de Cocla”

“Aunque nuestro padre, amigo y maestro ya no esté entre nosotros, seguirá siempre a nuestro lado, inspirando nuestro trabajo en la Central Cocla dirigido siempre al avance cooperativo”
También estamos unidos a la tristeza de su esposa la Sra. Joicy Violeta Bartra Gardini e Hijos Alina Angélica Del Águila Bartra y Juan Reynaldo Del Águila Bartra.


The Central de Cooperativas Agrarias Cafetaleras Cocla Ltda N° 281 announces with deep sadness and regret, the passing of the general manager of our institution on February 13, 2013, in Germany as result of cardiac arrest.


“Without question, our organization has suffered a great loss of a leader who not only improved our cooperative – but improved the lives of small-scale farmers around the world. Fighting tirelessly to strengthen the cooperative, we consider Raúl Del Águila a creative genius; the world has lost a great man. Raúl Del Águila leaves an organization that only he could have built and his spirit will always be the foundation of Cocla.”

“Although our father, friend and teacher is no longer among us, he will always be with us, inspiring our work in La Central Cocla and in the advancement of the cooperative vision.”

We also express our condolences to his wife, Mrs. Violeta Bartra Joicy Gardini and their children Alina Angelica Del Águila Bartra and Juan Reynaldo Del Águila Bartra.

A Question of Ownership


This is what a coffee executive should look like.  

About ten years ago I met an amazing coffee farmer in Costa Rica, up in a cloud forest near Monteverde. Sabino Montero was one of the first farmers in Costa Rica to embrace organic production, and his family’s lush farm, thick with greenery, was beautiful. At the time, I was considering working with his cooperative to launch a farmer-owned brand of coffee in the United States. Montero figured that I was just another American looking to document and market his family’s story to my clients. I’ll never forget his words, spoken carefully and sincerely, but not unkindly.

Amigo, who are you to brand our coffee as “Fair Trade” when we don’t even have a voice in the definition of fairness? What’s fair about that? You know, what my family truly needs is access to your rich customers!

Indeed, who are we to make claims of fairness? What is fair and who defines it? Shouldn’t the people on both sides of the transaction have an equal say?

I applaud the efforts of the fair trade movement and the true pioneers who helped to build it. Their intentions are pure. And their contributions are significant. But their solution is top-down, which ultimately leads to conflicts of ownership and dependency. “Fair Trade” standards are defined by certifiers, marketers and retailers. Few conscientious consumers realize that the farmers themselves are left out of the conversation and out of the board room.

When I ask farmers what they want, the answer is often “access to the consumer”. Naturally, they want more ownership in the value-added brand. But, more than anything, farmers want “independence” – the freedom to stay on the farm producing coffee, the freedom to send their children to school. They want to control their own destinies. They don’t want charity; they want an opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

Remember that the Fair Trade supply chain was built in cooperation with small-scale farmers around the world. Hardworking people like Sabino Montero in Costa Rica. Farmers that produce the specialty coffee, the authentic imagery, and the real stories that are brought to market by middlemen in the name of Fair Trade (or even Direct Trade). With very little say in what is sold as ethical coffee, farmers far removed from the marketplace have no power to challenge it.

My experience working for a small farmers’ cooperative in rural Bolivia in the 1990s taught me that conventional, top-down international development is inefficient and unsustainable. What actually works are simple, market-based solutions with direct beneficiary investment. Selling a value-added product directly to consumers, for example. And investment from the beneficiaries themselves (in this case, coffee farmers) is absolutely essential. Ownership matters because it leads to sustainable income, which results in financial independence.

Fair Trade was a needed solution when it emerged 25 years ago. The technology and infrastructure we have now simply did not exist. Today it does, thanks to the farmers, the importers, the marketers, and the consumers who laid the foundation. And let’s not forget the brilliant engineers who built the information technology most of us take for granted, although we use it every day.

I believe that sustainable solutions come from the ground up. And today’s technology can be the root of these solutions. At the base of the economic pyramid, there are a few billion very poor people around the world, and most of them are connected to the Internet or a cell phone. Billions of rich consumers are also connected to the Internet. Why can’t they connect with one another directly, without the aid of charities and middlemen? I believe that technology can provide the tools to build a new model of farmer ownership that goes beyond Fair Trade, in which the farmers own and control the technology themselves, and as a result, their own destinies.

Employing the Internet and today’s technology, I ultimately helped to unite more than 100,000 family farmers from around the world into a global cooperative called Pachamama Coffee. Based in California, the company is 100% farmer-owned and controlled. There is no confusion for consumers. If you want to help farmers, buy directly from farmers.

Our farmers sell fresh-roasted coffee directly to customers in the USA via select retailers and web-direct, at www.pacha.coop and www.CoffeeCSA.org. 100% of the price paid goes to the farmer.

There are many successful farmer-owned cooperatives. Consider leading brands like Organic Valley, Cabot Creamery, Sunkist, Blue Diamond and Ocean Spray. This is a proven business model with a balance of ownership that better aligns financial incentives for the long term.

It’s no longer simply a question of fairness. It’s a question of ownership.


G.M., Pachamama Coffee Cooperative

From the Ground Up: Farmer-Owned Brands on the Rise


A growing category in grocery retail embraces farmer-ownership

What do the following have in common: Divine Chocolate, Ocean Spray, Tillamook, Organic Valley and Florida’s Natural? They are all “Farmer-Owned” brands and actively promoting it.

Farmer-ownership is not new, of course. Agriculture has been the foundation of the world’s society and economy for thousands of years. But only recently has farmer-ownership emerged to become a focal point of product differentiation and it’s beginning to change the way we view our food.

As you walk through your local natural foods grocery, you are likely to find several brands promoting their unique ownership structure.  You might notice more products from independent local farms.  You might also notice more products from farmers who have pooled their resources and, in a democratic way, organized themselves into marketing cooperatives. A prime example of a farmer-owned marketing cooperative is CROPP, best known for their Organic Valley brand of dairy products that emphasize “Farmer-Owned” on the packaging. Other popular farmer-owned brands include Cabot Creamery, Ocean Spray, Welch’s and Divine Chocolate, a company 45% owned by a cooperative of cocoa farmers in Ghana.

A New Product Category

You can easily find Farmer-Owned brands in your local food co-op today, but this has not always been the case. Kevin Edberg, the executive director of Cooperative Development Services, observes, “What is interesting is the emergence of farmer-owned branding outside of dairy, with products like orange juice and coffee. Ocean Spray and Florida’s Natural now differentiate their brands by farmer-ownership. And note that this is not just an added feature – it truly drives to the core identity of the brand. Now that is interesting.”

I am the general manager of Pachamama Coffee, a US-based marketing cooperative 100% owned by thousands of small-scale coffee farmers around the world. In my role, I pay close attention to the marketing and promotion of “Farmer-Owned” brands. “Natural”, “Organic”, “Fair Trade” and “Eco-Friendly” are all movements that took root in the food cooperative community in the United States. Like those before it, the burgeoning Farmer-Owned movement finds its roots firmly in the cooperative community and is poised for growth.

Price Taker or Price Maker?

I worked for a small farmers’ cooperative in rural Bolivia while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1990’s. I helped to finance and market our members’ corn, peppers, beans and citrus to wholesalers in Santa Cruz – 12 hours away – through challenging mountain roads. It was not a good business. I learned first-hand that the person who often works the hardest (the farmer) is paid the least. She earns less (and faces greater risk) than the processor, who earns less than the distributor, who earns less than the marketer, who earns less than the retailer.

At that point, it became apparent to me that a great deal of the risk, and hardship, faced by small-scale farmers could be alleviated by communicating directly with end consumers via a high-quality, branded product. More than 15 years following my experiences in Bolivia, the success of cooperatives like Organic Valley only reinforce this belief.

But why does brand ownership matter to the farmer? Let’s compare the business of a rice brand to that of a rice farmer. The brand owner sets the price of his rice to include profit margins that he is willing to accept in exchange for the finished product. Most brands name a price that covers costs and provides a sustainable return on capital. On the flip side of this equation, the rice farmer has no say in the price he is offered, because no single producer can influence the market. As a result, the farmer must accept the price that is available in the market and he will do so even if it does not cover his cost of production. The difference is that the brand owner has a differentiated product that the consumer values as unique, while the farmer is selling an undifferentiated commodity on a global market, far removed from the end-consumer.

From the farmer’s point of view, Raul del Aguila, the president of Pachamama Coffee, and the general manager of the COCLA farmers’ cooperative in Quillabamba, Peru, states: “We only want a good, stable price for our coffee harvest. It’s difficult to run a business when you don’t know what the market price will be next week. To gain greater independence, our farmers need to sell more value-added products and fewer raw commodities.”

Farmers who own successful brands set their own prices and capture the benefit associated with product improvements, because they have the economic incentive to pay close attention to detail. After all, it’s their name and – in some cases – their picture on the package.

Know Your Farmer

Brands promoting themselves as Farmer-Owned are finding new ways to introduce the customer to the farmer. Organic Valley is perhaps the leader in this respect. The “Who’s Your Farmer” feature on their website “aims to align the independent, farmer-owned brand with consumers who share its values, spirit and dedication to local organic food. To deepen the connection between Organic Valley farmers and consumers.”

“It’s clear that the community wants to know where their milk comes from, and we want to create easy and fun ways to get to know our farmers,” said Theresa Marquez, chief marketing executive for Organic Valley.

Edberg believes that “Farmer-owned brands are making a difference and adding value by connecting with people in a more direct, visceral way. “ As you might guess, this movement is consumer-driven as much as it’s farmer-driven. There is a growing consumer demand to support small-scale family farmers of high-quality products. Whether at the farmers’ market, the food co-op or the local farm C.S.A., more people today want to know about the people and places that produce their food.

And who better to deliver this information than the farmer herself? Purchasing Farmer-Owned brands puts more power and more income into the hands of the farmer, and that is an appealing alternative for many consumers.

“It’s not just a nice thing to do,” concludes Kevin Edberg, “it’s voting for democratic control of capital in a cooperative economy.”

CoffeeCSA Connects Coffee Lovers Straight to the Farm

The farmer-owned cooperative Pachamama Coffee launched the world’s first global C.S.A. (Community Support Agriculture) program last week. (Here’s an article from the New York Times). The new web platform, www.CoffeeCSA.org, is a community supported agriculture model that allows consumers to subscribe to regular deliveries of roasted coffee from family farmers. It is the world’s first project to directly connect consumers with 140,000 small-scale coffee farmer entrepreneurs in Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Ethiopia. An unprecedented model in the coffee industry, CoffeeCSA empowers farmers to differentiate outside of the commodity crop model and deal directly with consumers. All CoffeeCSA coffees are Organic and Fair Trade Certified, hand-roasted in small batches and available on the CoffeeCSA website and at over 100 independent cafés and cooperative grocery retailers.

With micro-lending models such as Kiva.org gaining popularity, CoffeeCSA.org goes one step further by allowing CSA subscribers to fund, purchase and consume the finished product directly from the farm entrepreneur.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a burgeoning national food trend in which thousands of America’s small farms and artisan food producers are supported by CSA consumers who are so passionate about direct farmer relationships that they become stakeholders in a farm’s harvest. These food lovers go beyond the farmers’ market to buy weekly, monthly or annual shares in local, seasonal fruits, vegetables, flowers, meat, dairy and even seafood.

But coffee is not grown locally, and conscious consumers had no real direct access to the product or the personal stories of individual growers. By offering CSA subscriptions to independent, family-owned coffee farms, CoffeeCSA gives coffee lovers the opportunity to invest in and enjoy the harvest of small-scale coffee farmers, helping them earn more money and preserve family farms for future generations. 140,000 farmer-owners grow coffee for CoffeeCSA on small farms whose size ranges from from one to 10 acres.

“For people who treasure their coffee experience, CoffeeCSA is a powerful way to make a direct connection to the farmer,” said Thaleon Tremain, CEO, CoffeeCSA.org. “Subscribers secure their own personal share of a specific coffee harvest and support an individual farmer who works hard to grow the finest single-origin coffee available today. This is a real relationship, and a commitment which goes far beyond a label on a bag.”

Small-scale coffee farming is financially risky. Direct relationships with American coffee lovers can ensure stability for growers who struggle to cultivate a sensitive agricultural crop in a volatile global market.

“I am proud of the coffee I grow, and I am proud that I make my own independent decisions as a coffee farmer.” said Catarina Yac, coffee farm owner from Santa Clara Laguna, Guatemala. “But I also like to learn from other people. I look forward to connecting with Americans who buy my coffee!”

The online service is easy to use and offers varying levels of purchase commitment. CSA shares start at $19.99 per month for 2 pounds of fresh-roasted coffee, with flat-rate shipping of $9.99 per box. 2 pound, 5 pound, and 10 pound CSA boxes are available. Membership requires only entering an email address and name, and can be canceled at any time with no obligation. Subscriptions are flexible with options to select a personal farmer from a specific region or “bundle” of featured farmers from multiple origins including Ethiopia, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico. Monthly deliveries are standard, with options to customize timing and delivery locations. All coffee is fresh-roasted in California and shipped directly to subscribers. Members can choose to receive regular email updates from their farming family.

All CoffeeCSA.org offerings are double-certified Organic and Fair Trade, with labels guaranteeing environmental stewardship and transparency in accordance with prominent third-party certification systems.

CoffeeCSA subscriptions are also available on LocalHarvest.org  (www.LocalHarvest.org) America’s leading organic and local food online resource. Local Harvest maintains a definitive and reliable “living” public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets, and other local food sources.

Organic Prairie: Who’s Your Farmer?

COCLA of Peru, A Leading Farmer-Owned Co-op

The COCLA Cooperative of Quillabamba, Peru, is a leading Farmer-Owned and Fair Trade organization owned and governed by more than 8,000 small-scale family farmers. COCLA, a founding member of Pachamama Coffee Co-op (USA), sells its fresh-roasted coffee to food cooperatives throughout the United States.

Tillamook: Proud to be Farmer-Owned since 1909


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