This was the first time since CRS started participating in the SCAA Event back in 2004 that we have had a booth on the show floor. It was a decidedly modest affair — a 10′ x 20′ booth with five round tables where farmer organizations participating in the CAFE Livelihoods program could meet with current and potential future trading partners, lenders, donors, etc.
We did our best to prepare our partners for the event with practical recommendations — print extra business cards, double-check the contact information, do your homework, schedule appointments far in advance with the roasters and importers you want to meet, etc. We also worked with our partners to help them tell their stories more effectively in English, and displayed their flyers at the stand. And we hung a banner with our logo and a nice portrait of a farmer we support in El Salvador.
But mostly, our space was designed to give the farmer organization representatives who participated in SCAA a place to call home. The event can be awfully bewildering, especially for first-time participants trying to get a foothold in the specialty coffee market. A “home-field advantage” — a space to meet in the company of friends and allies — was one small support we were pleased to provide.