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Enrique Ferrufino: Wize co-founder and third-generation coffee farmer

I have been given space to learn and understand how the industry conducts itself, and in that space, I have been given stability. It’s ironic, because the industry itself is as unstable as they come.”


Let me introduce you to Enrique Ferrufino, a coffee farmer from Nicaragua. He has a beautiful family, a beautiful farm, and he’s a symbol of prosperity while also being an anomaly. The first thing you realize when speaking to Enrique is how matter-of-fact he is about everything, he speaks like someone conditioned by compromise and resiliency. Resiliency itself is a prerequisite for the coffee game; it takes a lot of hours, acres, money and hope to be productive. It is a surprising realization that the coffee industry could be built on such a shaky infrastructure when we live in a world with a cafe on every corner. In this interview, Enrique flatly informs me that coffee is a broken cycle; it’s like a snake eating its own tail.


"It’s ironic, because the industry itself is as unstable as they come.”

 

wize co-founder enrique ferrufino

Making money, let alone finding stability, is far from a guarantee given the steps needed to stay afloat. It’s an arduous process of buying farms, planting the coffee plants, and investing up to four years into the first production. It’s not a process in which one can cut corners, Enrique informs me: “the product is never good when steps are skipped,” he says. “If you’re in this industry, you’re in all the way. Though the demand for coffee grows annually, the pitfalls are plenty, inventory can run short, and pricing is dictated by the market. Whatever it takes to make, you might end up selling for half of that.”


“Whatever it takes to make, you might end up selling it for half that”

coffee bags on Enrique's farm

Coffee bags waiting to be exported

 

The way he describes it, you’re surrendering your own sense of stability to the mercy of an unforgiving industry. It seems crazy, but at times, sacrifice and survival are often mistaken as such. It’s important to reiterate that this is the world Enrique inhabits, but for all the volatility he describes to me, I never hear longing in his voice, I hear the voice of a man who is well-resigned into what he does. An expert in a broken system, completely aware of how easy it would be to flee the cycle, but conscious of what’s at stake. There are 100 people that work with Enrique, not including the people who work in the fields, “We provide payment for these people and their families, sometimes we have to stretch the money,” he says. He adds, “I know that sometimes it’d just be easier to run a smaller farm, but that’s my responsibility.”


“We provide payment for these people and their families, sometimes we have to stretch the money”

 

One of their long-time workers Marcelino with grand-son

 

It’s when Enrique begins to talk about what he’s doing with Wize™ that I notice his optimism come to the surface:

 

"With Wize, we’re pioneering a new way to make all coffee farms resilient, empowering our community to make a year-round living with something that we already have. Now we have options in the off-season, and we’ve already created 100,000 hours of work for underemployed staff that are looking for income when they need it most. It’s very encouraging to see that consumers are enjoying our new iced teas as well, because it represents the biggest opportunity for our communities to have long-term stability.” Enrique smiles, and adds: “I can’t wait to see what the future holds for farmers like us.”

 

Wize iced teas

New Wize™ Iced Teas

 

“I can’t wait to see what the future holds for farmers like us.”

 

When I asked Enrique for an abridged explanation of the coffee crisis, he began describing how the cycle devours those who make it run. Cultivating coffee is a twelve month investment, and that coffee is one sold once a year. Typically, the more you produce, the more you’re liable to lose. “There are poorer farmers in the middle of nowhere farming with almost nothing, they don’t have the means to get out of the cycle, it’s hard for them,” he tells me. Even though Enrique is able to stay afloat, his first example is to explain the concerns of those who are struggling to tread water, he is reflexively empathetic. Restoring beauty and stability are second nature to him. Even as he explains the turbulent landscape of the coffee industry, there is a sense of duty and perseverance behind his every word, a commitment to providing reliability and creating opportunity in an industry and a world that needs it more than ever.

 

enrique's daughter

Enrique's daughter on one of their horses 

 

“There are poorer farmers in the middle of nowhere farming with almost nothing... they don’t have the means to get out of the cycle.”

It’s here where Enrique’s dedication is on full display. His world has morphed and decayed over decades, and yet, he doesn’t waver. His vision for a better future is never clouded by a sense of loss or a difficult path. Many might digest the tribulations of a cruel industry and a fluctuating community by quitting, but Enrique is always one to try to improve the system before abandoning it. Now with Wize, he has the biggest opportunity of anyone in the coffee industry to rewrite history, and create a new path for his family and fellow farmers around the world.

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