Simplicity: The Story of the Pickers
“Never watch another man work,” my Uncle Frank told me while wiping sweat from his face. I was just a young boy at the time, but those words have stuck with me ever since. My father, whether he realized it or not, never had to ask me to cut the grass with him. If I saw him working outside, I knew I needed to be out there. The voice inside my head wouldn’t allow otherwise..
Fast forward a decade to when I hired my first workers in Ecuador. I needed them to pick out the defected beans from the various quintals of natural coffee that we planned to import into The States.
Their hiring agent told me, “No more than $20 per day for each of them. You’ll have a husband and a wife, and they will each work 8 hours.” Later, I found out that the minimum wage in Ecuador is $400 per month– 20 workdays in a month + $20 per day = $400 monthly.
They arrived at the peeling facility, shook my hand, and thanked me for the opportunity. I explained to them what they would be doing, set up their station, and allowed them to get to work. I left the coffee on the picking table and walked away.
I returned to my station set up in Caffe Marie (our processing facility) and continued working on my computer. I could see the husband and wife picking out the defects, one after another. They were focused on the task at hand not saying a word.
An hour in, I saw the woman stand up and arch her back as if it was bothering her from hunching over. Immediately, it hit me– the same feeling I had watching my father laboriously swing the weed-eater in the back yard while I sat in my room playing video games. The feeling of watching another person work while I sat idle.
I closed my computer and went outside. I began working with the pickers, one by one, sorting out the defected beans from the good ones. None of us said a word. Thirty minutes in, I experienced a calmness that I had never felt before– a simplicity that all lives should have. There was no overthinking, no worry just a simple task repeated over and over again.
We picked through over 450 pounds of coffee that day. Never in my life had I experienced such simplicity, such harmony. The workers would be there three more days, picking beans and completing other various jobs. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to work with them again, as I had other tasks– but they left their mark upon me and Z Beans.
While Z Beans will inevitably become more complex as we continue to grow, I will always keep the pickers in mind. The simpler we keep our mission the more we will grow. God willing, Z Beans will one day have many, many sales channels. We may even have shops internationally. But no matter how big we become, our mission will never change. Put simply, we create opportunities for the people of Ecuador by connecting them with people willing to help.
People like you.
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