Improving the quality of beans is often a collaborative effort between farmer and roaster
A farmer is looking to receive the best price for his beans, but that doesn't always mean he's trying to create the highest-quality product. Like any form of agriculture, some farms produce commodity-grade coffees and others grow exceptional beans.
In a direct trade relationship, a roaster seeks out a farmer who is capable of reaching that higher echelon of quality. The roaster will agree to buy a certain amount of coffee per year if it hits a specific quality standard. But the real needle-moving happens when a roaster realizes a farm's untapped potential and crafts a contract that helps the farmer improve infrastructure to the point where they're elevating quality. So theoretically, everyone wins.
Salaries of coffee laborers vary wildly by country
Brazilian coffee pickers are on the very high end of the payment spectrum, often earning up to $1,000 per month (3x the minimum wage), whereas their Guatemalan counterparts are sometimes lucky to take home $5 per day.