For Elmer Fajardo, coffee is synonymous with family.
“Whenever I see a steaming cup of coffee, it reminds me of my grandfathers, who always drink steaming coffee… They couldn’t care less whether it was morning or afternoon; all they wanted was a hot cup of coffee to have a conversation and spend time together. That, in a nutshell, is what coffee means to me.”
Fajardo was 17 years old when he travelled to Chicago from his family’s farm on the mountainous border between Guatemala and Honduras in 2011.
I grew up in a fairly rural area. My village is called Aldea Valle de Jess, and I recall that we didn’t even have electricity until I was about eight years old,” Fajardo explained. “My grandfather grew a lot of things, not just coffee; he grew tobacco, corn, beans, and sugar cane.”
Today, Anticonquista Café, Fajardo’s business, sells locally roasted beans from the Fajardo farm. Fajardo, on the other hand, came to Chicago hoping to find work that would enable him to send money home and keep the farm afloat. Fajardo claims he received a wake-up call in one of Chicago’s coffeehouses.
“When I came here in 2011 and saw… the prices of coffee in my town and when I went to those, like, fancy places to drink, I thought something was wrong, because they were using our coffee but not paying us, and they were selling it at this exorbitant price.”
According to Fajardo, even cooperative farming models in Latin America frequently undercompensate farmers for their beans.
“These multinational corporations assert, ‘We already have these people on our coffee,'” Fajardo explained. “This means that [farmers], even if the price is high, will not see additional revenue; they already owe money to these multinational corporations for their coffee.”
Fajardo and his wife Lauren Reese created a business model in 2019 that eliminates the intermediary between farmers and consumers.
“It comes directly from my husband Elmer’s farm, and I work directly with his brother, Emilio, whom I see every day, especially during harvest season.” I serve as his point person for stewarding the coffee from the farm all the way up here to Chicago,” Reese explains.