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  • Hannah Clark

Northern Coffee Roasters United!

Hannah Davies (Cup North), Holly Kragiopoulos (North Star Coffee), Cristina Talens (Source Climate Change Coffee) and Hannah Clark  (Farmers' Voice Radio).
The panel at the Northern Roaster Farmers' Voice Radio event.

No, this is not a new football team! This is the outcome of a fantastic Farmers’ Voice Radio event for coffee roasters from across the North of England. As a collective, northern coffee roasters can achieve so much more than as individual businesses and it is so exciting to see them coming together to build a more certain future for everyone in the coffee sector.

The aim of the event was to share and build up support for the Lorna Young Foundation’s recently launched Farmers’ Voice Radio Academy. This initiative is training up producer groups and radio stations across Africa, Asia and Latin America to use the Farmers’ Voice Radio approach and methodology, putting the power of participatory radio into the hands of millions more smallholder producers. By sponsoring Farmers’ Voice Radio, companies are safeguarding the livelihoods of those we depend upon for our coffee, as well as strengthening supply chains, contributing to speciality coffee’s sustainability agenda and appealing to increasingly ethical and informed customers.

On the 23rd March, coffee roasters from Liverpool to Hull and everywhere in between, came together on a balmy spring evening for an event hosted by Dark Woods Coffee, North Star Roasters and Cup North. The panel discussion, moderated by Cup North’s Hannah Davies, highlighted many of the issues faced by smallholder coffee producers and coffee roasters in the current climate. Holly from North Star shared how raising the voices of coffee producers is vital and long overdue – highlighting that unequal power dynamics mean that coffee supply chains will never be truly sustainable until coffee producers have a greater stake in the market.

Cristina from Source Climate Change Coffee, who has worked with smallholder producers for over 15 years, shared that changing weather patterns, fluctuating prices and an aging population of coffee producers all contribute to increased instability for coffee.

Cristina also talked about seeing how radio programmes, produced by coffee farmers, in local language, in the community setting, have bought about incredible changes. A Farmers’ Voice Radio project that Cristina worked on in Kenya resulted in farmers planting 10,000 disease resistant coffee seedlings– in fact the local nurseries sold out of all these seedlings, due to the demand created by the discussions on the radio programmes!

Our own Hannah Clark presented how Farmers’ Voice Radio has resulted in changes in knowledge and practices that have increased coffee producer’s resilience to climate change, improved their access to markers and raised the productivity and quality of their coffee. Radio projects in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Panama have all been really effective at empowering women coffee producers and motivating young people into coffee production.

It was really clear that everyone understood the value of radio as a medium for reaching the remote and isolated communities that produce the coffee we love! Steve from Rounton Coffee Roasters commented: “’Farming Today’, on BBC Radio 4, is the first thing the farming community in the UK listen to everyday and so it makes perfect sense that radio is the best way to reach the farmers in the countries where we source from."

We are so excited that northern coffee roasters are coming together to help Farmers’ Voice Radio reach thousands more coffee producers and build the resilience of coffee- growing communities, and the UK coffee sector. We are also grateful to those who have already committed to sponsoring the Farmers’ Voice Radio Academy for the next 3 years.

The evening at Dark Woods was a wonderful opportunity for friends in the speciality coffee world to come together for a beer and a chat, after what has been a very isolating and difficult couple of years. But more than that, it has provided an opportunity for northern coffee roasters to pool their resources and see what northern innovation can achieve! We will keep you posted!

Farmers’ Voice Radio has a range of benefits for coffee businesses, supply chain partners and producer communities. Sponsoring the Farmers’ Voice Radio Academy makes good business sense and shows customers and employees you are serious about creating positive impact. If you would like to sponsor the Farmers’ Voice Radio Academy, please follow this link.

Photo credit: Steve Lovatt Photo


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