Consisting of a single paved road, the community of Monserrate straddles a ridge in the beautiful Cordillera Central mountain range in the southwestern departamento (state) of Huila. At the top of the road is a large, brick church that houses a shrine to the Virgen de Monserrate, a statue of a black Virgin Mary that’s become a regional tourist attraction. Most residents of Monserrate and surrounding communities are small-scale farmers who grow coffee as a cash crop, and several years ago some of them formed an organization called Grupo Asociativo Productores del Nuevo Milenio (“Associative Group of Producers of the New Millennium,” or PROAGROMIL) in an effort to sell their coffee at a higher price. As the contractor for the five-year, USAID-funded Colombian Specialty Coffee Program, ACDI/VOCA introduced Atlas to PROAGROMIL in 2005. Craig Holt, Atlas’ founder and managing partner, initially traveled to Monserrate as an ACDI/VOCA volunteer and worked with the growers to assess the quality of their coffees, review their harvesting & processing techniques, and offer suggestions on how to position themselves in the specialty coffee market. Impressed with the possibility for truly exceptional coffee production in the community, Craig returned the following year with several roaster clients and solidified a commercial relationship. He also had face-to-face meetings with the growers and the exporter to set the price, which has ensured that all parties are comfortable with the transaction. The result is that Atlas purchases all of Monserrate’s coffee at a premium over the internal price and markets and sells the coffee under the community’s name. Atlas has also worked with ACDI/VOCA to send technical experts as well as its in-country agent, Nicolás Rodríguez, to analyze each grower’s farm and make recommendations for improved growing, milling, and drying practices. Due to the success of this relationship, PROAGROMIL took on new members, increased its production, and built a cupping laboratory with funds from Atlas, ACDI/VOCA, and C.I. Racafé, a Bogotá-based exporter. Currently 42 producers belong to the organization with an annual yield of three containers of green coffee (825 total bags, each weighing 70 kilograms). Atlas is proud to work with the Monserrate farmers and be the exclusive importer of their coffee, and we are proud of this coffee offering and the ability to participate in this innovative development initiative.
per 12oz bag