Unlike Starbucks, Farmers Union Coffee Roasters isn’t in the coffee business to make money. Joseph Harrison, the owner of Farmers Union, is not the same as former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz. Harrison is selling much higher quality coffee at a much smaller margin. So he’s not doing it to get rich. He just wants to put the amazing tastes of sustainably grown coffee beans on display.
“We’re doing it because we love it,” said Harrison, one of the owners of the newest Eugene coffee shop Farmers Union Coffee. “We’re doing it because of the passion. Unlike Howard Schultz, I will never be a Billionaire. It's actually very okay because I can sleep at night.”
Farmers Union Coffee Roasters opened its doors February 24 for an unofficial opening on 152 W. 5th Ave. Farmers Union Coffee used to go by the name of Slightly Coffee Roasters when it was located on 8th Ave. by the Federal Courthouse, but they opted for a change of name and scenery in the Market District. The new coffee shop took over for the Allan Bros Coffee & Tea and found its home in the nearly 100-year-old Farmers Union Marketplace.
Ringing true to the name, Farmers Union Coffee Roasters is all about the farmers. The café is there to showcase coffee growers from around the world that the owners have created relationships with.
As Harrison said, “We’re kind of the ambassadors of these farmers who we source coffee from, and we’re their connection to the people drinking their coffee.”
Finding these farmers who will ultimately provide the coffee that is served in the café is no easy task. For Harrison, it is all about sustainability and finding farmers who share his values in growing coffee beans in a environmentally friendly and economically beneficial fashion. According to Harrison, most coffee is sold below its price of production, meaning the communities that are providing the coffee are losing money.
To avoid this, Harrison works closely with the growers and the importers to make sure that the production is being done without a negative impact on those communities.
“It is a business relationship and I don't mean to romanticize it but we want to make sure everyone benefits from that relationship,” said Harrison.
The care taken to put forward the best coffee is evident. The blends have a complexity of taste that is unique to Farmers Union Coffee Roasters. Sometimes the coffee can have hints of fruit along with the rich, roasted taste.
Even the space that Farmers Union Coffee Roasters inhabits displays a great amount of care and attention to the atmosphere they want to radiate. Tall ceilings with large wooden beams stretch across the space making it feel airy and open. All the tables are either made by hand or refurbished thrift pieces.
Sustainability doesn’t just show up in the growing of the beans, but also in the day-to-day of the café. When someone buys roasted beans in wholesale, Farmers Union Coffee Roasters will deliver those in food-grade reusable buckets to avoid using one-use bags that will end up in a landfill. All the waste from the roasting of the coffee is turned into “coffee chaff,” which is the skin of the coffee bean that can be reused as fertilizer for local gardens. The coffee shop is so set on being sustainable that they even went so far as to acquire an official certification from BRING — BRING is a local nonprofit that focuses on addressing global warming and waste in Eugene.
“If we’re not going to make an effort to address [global warming] as a society right now, we’re going to at least do what we can in the meantime,” said Harrison.
Although Harrison takes sustainability and conscientious business practice seriously, Farmers Union Coffee Roasters is trying to show that the coffee business can also be fun. The large, bright pink coffee roaster that sits by the door is evidence of this. And they really do use this big pink machine every day to roast their beans. There is also a small kids area with toys and fun things to keep the little ones entertained — according to them, everyone should be enjoying themselves in a coffee shop.
Farmers Union Coffee Roasters will soon start serving beverages a little stronger than coffee, like craft beer and wine during and after their grand opening party on June 22. There will also be more food and coffee slushies available at this big celebration.
The welcoming and warm environment that Farmers Union Coffee Roasters provides, paired with the great tasting coffee and values-forward business model, make for a top-notch coffee experience.