Arley de Jesus Montoya Solis Makes First Visit to U.S.

Arley de Jesus Montoya Solis, one of the nearly 5,000 producers in the S&D Raíz Sustainability® sourcing platform, recently took time away from his coffee farm in Antioquia, Colombia, to visit us stateside.

First stop, Chicago, where Arley participated in the McDonald’s McCafé Sustainable Coffee Journey event and shared his personal story and passion for sustainable coffee farming. Following Chicago, he spent a day touring the S&D flagship facility in Concord, N.C., learning what happens to the coffee beans once they leave his farm. Below is his personal story from his first visit to the U.S.

Thursday, November 29     

“Olga Cuellar-Gomez and I stand outside the McCafé Sustainable Coffee Journey event. Coming from Colombia, the cold Chicago weather is an adjustment for both of us, but we’re excited to be here to support McDonald’s goal to sustainably source 100 percent of its coffee worldwide by 2020.”

Coffee Farm

“Throughout the day, I had the opportunity to share my passion for coffee farming with consumers stopping by to experience a coffee farm in the middle of Chicago and enjoy a complimentary cup of McCafé coffee. Many people are surprised to learn a typical day on the farm for me starts early around 4 am and often goes late into the night. My harvesting is done manually year-round, producing between 7,000 and 12,000 kg of green coffee beans per year. Coffee farming is a process that takes some time, but it is very rewarding.”

“The McCafé Sustainable Coffee Journey event was a great way to visually show consumers the importance of sustainability in the coffee industry. I have been in coffee farming my entire life, and have been running my farm—La Montanita—for 18 years. Coffee farming means a livelihood to me and the community around me. It is the primary source of income for many and provides a sense of belonging, along with important benefits like health services and education loans. However, the negative impacts of climate change have made coffee farming challenging at times. With the warmer temperatures, the harvest season is starting later. Production is more variable, which means that our volume and quality are less predictable, and our income is less secure.”

“Through S&D’s education programs, we have improved a number of our practices to be more sustainable. We’ve learned better soil-testing methods, and even have access to a soil-testing lab right near our farm. This saves money and is better for the environment. Water management is also very important. Coffee processing uses a lot of water, so we work to both reduce the amount of water we use and create processes to return clean water to the earth. Overall, we’re making an investment for the long term. I feel proud to have companies such as S&D and McDonald’s as partners. These programs are helping us improve our farms and ensure their existence for the future.”

Monday, December 3

Arleys visit

“My first visit at the S&D facilities in Concord started with Eric Mitchell, a green coffee buyer in commodities. We discussed the roasting and cupping process and I got the opportunity to cup several different coffee blends.”

“After cupping, I toured the manufacturing facility and met more of the S&D team. It’s impressive to experience the sheer volume of coffee processed daily.”

“What might be even more impressive than the manufacturing is the cupping lab, where a team of Q-graders and cuppers ensure quality and consistency at scale. They sample and grade coffee at every step of the coffee process—about 6 times—to guarantee the best quality. With more than 600 SKUs on-site, they have their work cut out for them.”

“Perhaps the best part of the day was meeting everyone at S&D. The warm welcome and smiling faces were the perfect way to end the trip. This was an exciting first visit to the U.S. Not only did I get to represent S&D and McDonald’s in Chicago, but I also got to experience the journey my coffee takes when it leaves my farm. It was inspiring to see the care and quality that goes into manufacturing coffee at S&D. I am very proud of the work I do and look forward to expanding my sustainability efforts alongside S&D and McDonalds.”