Inspiring a high standard of excellence through the MVP Program
Throughout our more than 20 years of importing coffee, we’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most dedicated and quality-driven producers in the business. Many exceptional Relationship Coffee partnerships have been created by connecting these top producers with roasters in North America and beyond, demonstrating what a world-class supply chain invested in shared success can achieve. Today, we have a name for this elite group of enterprising farmers: The Most Valuable Producers, or MVPs.
The MVP Program is our preferred supplier program that connects top producers to roasters and supports their professional development through training events. By equipping the MVPs with the knowledge and skills they need to continually perform at the highest level, we’ve found they’re empowered to consistently produce high-quality coffees and build strong farmer organizations. In turn, this performance allows us to offer roasters a portfolio of remarkable Relationship Coffees produced by farmers uniquely dedicated to buyer relationships, quality, performance, sustainability, and organizational excellence.
Uniting the Central America MVPs in Nicaragua
Since the MVP Program's inception in 2015, we've gathered the MVPs in a variety of origin and consumer countries for trainings and opportunities to meet with buyers. The most recent event took place last week at the dry mill of PRODECOOP in Palacagüina, Nicaragua, where 80 participants representing 22 MVP organizations from our Central America supply chain united for the MVP Central America Summit. This was our first-ever MVP event held in the region, and it offered an important opportunity to address the challenges producers are facing in Central America while affirming the power of the MVP program to inspire producer excellence.
The four-day gathering featured cuppings, workshops, and presentations organized by Sustainable Harvest® staff and industry experts, touching on a range of topics including quality control, Q Grader certification, best agronomic practices, climate change, processing, drying, warehousing, coffee market innovation, organizational development, and financial risk management. Leading these sessions were 10 Sustainable Harvest® staff members, along with industry experts who provided additional insights into variety selection, innovations in processing, and Roya prevention.
One key focus of the event was cupping. Accurately measuring quality and communicating flavor across the supply chain is one of the most important aspects of coffee sourcing, as it's essential we can effectively talk about taste with our suppliers. With 26 producer cuppers and our own quality control staff present at the event to lead the calibration, the cupping tables were abuzz with slurping and in-depth discussions on identifying flavor profiles and accurately evaluating coffees based on SCA protocols. The event also featured a full Q Grader exam preparation course that readied cuppers to take the test in the coming months. One of the many benefits of being a member of the MVP Program is that MVPs receive a 75% discount on their Q Grader exam, an initiative that incentivies professional cupping development in our supply chain.
Many of the topics addressed at the event centered around tackling climate change. Unusual weather caused by a changing climate is one of the most significant challenges coffee producers currently face, as increased rains during unexpected periods can greatly hinder the drying process and generate extra humidity that reduces the quality of improperly warehoused coffee. By highlighting best practices in storage and innovations like solar dryers that can mitigate the impact changing weather patterns, the presentations at the gathering challenged the MVPs to identify areas for improvement in their own processes that will elevate the quality of the upcoming Central America harvest.
An often overlooked area of farmer capacity building that is regularly incorporated into MVP events is institutional development. The challenges associated with running a cooperative are numerous: access to finance is limited, members can sell to third-parties if coffee coyotes offer them a higher price, and the many pitfalls of coffee farming can make it difficult to live up to buyer quality and volume expectations. At the MVP Central America summit, Senior Relationship Coffee Manager Jeronimo Bollen led a session on organizational development, bringing general and commercial managers up to speed on cutting-edge cooperative management techniques. Drawing on his experience evaluating risk and organizational integrity as the former VP of Lending for Latin America at Root Capital, Jeronimo constructed an MBA-style class that illuminated how producer leaders can minimize risk and create organizational resilience through strong management systems. One cooperative manager aptly summarized the value of the class as it was coming to a close: "The stars are aligned. I now know we what have to do to bring our co-op into the 21st century."
Improving livelihoods and creating mutual benefit through farmer training
The MVP Program speaks to heart of what Relationship Coffee is all about: roasters and producers committed to each other's long-term success. We’re grateful to our partners World Coffee Research, Bunn, and PRODECOOP for their support of the event, and to all the roasters who support this supply chain investment through their purchases. We look forward to sharing more about the program soon as its membership continues to grow and the MVPs produce exciting, noteworthy coffees with each harvest.