Among David Griswold's many success stories is that of Finca del Valle, a small family-run farm outside Antigua, Guatemala, and, in fact, the inspiration for Griswold's business model. Owned and operated by Cristina and Rigoberto Gonzales, along with their three sons, Pablo, Luís, and José, Finca del Valle has been producing specialty coffee for more than a century. Cristina is one of only two female coffee farm owners in Antigua, and because of its quality, her coffee garners some of the highest prices in the country.
All in the family: The Finca del Valle coffee farm in Guatemala, operated by the Gonzales family, has been producing specialty coffee for more than a century. "Cristina is so in tune with what quality means, and it's a quality standard that resonates with the North American version of quality," Griswold says. "She is the epitome of pride of ownership and workmanship. When I first started talking about relationship coffee, it was simply taking what was happening between ourselves, Cristina, and our buyers and codifying it."
Griswold purchases Finca del Valle's entire coffee crop, which is shared by three roasters in the United States: Allegro Coffee Co., a larger roaster in Thornton, Colorado; Batdorf and Bronson, a medium-sized roaster in Olympia, Washington; and Stumptown Coffee, a small roaster in Portland, Oregon. Allegro and Batdorf and Bronson sell their coffee nationally, including in Whole Foods Markets, and Stumptown sells its coffee locally.
Employees of all three roasting companies have visited Finca del Valle, nurturing close friendships with the Gonzales family. And in September of last year, Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers, along with the three roasters, sponsored a trip for the Gonzaleses to Portland, Thornton, and Olympia—the family's first chance in seven years to travel outside Guatemala. For the first time, the family witnessed their coffee being roasted, brewed, and sold, and they had the opportunity to talk face-to-face with people who enjoy their coffee every day. "It was inspiring because no amount of pictures or stories can explain exactly what's going on in another country," Griswold says. "I can come to roasters with videos and presentations on coffee farms, but it's not like walking along and smelling the morning fire that's cooking frijoles and listening to the roosters crow all day and having a delicious cup of cowboy coffee for breakfast—that changes the whole experience for a roaster. The same thing happens when the growers come here. They have a warped idea of how we're living in the United States. So when they visit, they can see that most people are living pretty modestly and that the companies we're selling to are driven by a deep passion for quality."