Success Stories

Helping Central American farmers

Derrell and Missy Jackson

Through their coffee company called Bean by Bean, Grand Valley State University alumnus Derrell Jackson and his wife Missy are making a difference -- one drop at a time.

Bean by Bean guarantees a fair trade wage for the Central American farmers they work with by cutting out the middle-man and paying the farmers directly.

Although fair trade practices can sometimes help impoverished workers, it often ends up benefiting the wealthy, such as the wealthy land-owning farmers that gain access to the higher-priced specialty fair trade market, Jackson explained. The smaller-scale farmers are left working with whatever they can get, and that is when Bean by Bean comes in.

"Bean by Bean works only with the smaller-scale farmers, paying them a fair wage so that they can feed their families, send their kids to school and get an opportunity to improve their financial situations," Jackson added.

The idea behind the business came from Dr. Paul Lane, a Grand Valley marketing professor.

"They are doing some real good in the world by giving people at the bottom of the economic pyramid a chance at life. Every dollar they sell is a dollar's worth of hope for some family somewhere, in Central America," Lane said.

The people that Jackson works with live on less than one dollar a day, so when he pays them a fair trade wage for coffee he has just doubled their income and enabled them to do a wide range of things, Lane added.

Bean by Bean literally puts a face to the impact that it and its customers are making, with a photo of the farmer they are helping, placed right on the product.

Nasario Sequenset, a Guatemalan farmer, who provides coffee to the company, has seen his quality of life improve by the collaboration. His wages from Bean by Bean have allowed him to build a larger home that more comfortably fits his many family members.

"To us it means that we are working to make business do what it is supposed to do: Benefit the consumer with a good product, the business owner with an opportunity to make a living and the suppliers an opportunity at a better life,” Jackson said.

Jackson plans on growing the business by expanding their supplier relationships with small scale farmers and make a larger, positive impact on coffee growing communities.

by Abby Hartig

This story was filed with the tags: Sustainability, Undergraduate Alumni