Batesburg-Leesville coffee start-up hopes to boost coffee growers, local community

Posted 2/1/24

From the foreign lands of Ethiopia and Guatemala, Beulah Roasting Co. is bringing coffee to the tables and countertops of Americans across the country. 

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Batesburg-Leesville coffee start-up hopes to boost coffee growers, local community


From the foreign lands of Ethiopia and Guatemala, Beulah Roasting Co. is bringing coffee to the tables and countertops of Americans across the country. 

The process of accomplishing this mission starts in the small town of Batesburg-Leesville. 

Beulah Roasting Co. was opened in early October 2023 by Jessica and Jeremiah Sowards, social media influencers who moved to the twin cities in 2021 from Arkansas.

“We loved this area so much that my husband and I discussed it and we felt like this was home to us, so we put the wheels in motion and it took us about three years to relocate,” Jessica told the Chronicle. 

The roastery has sold more than 2,000 bags of coffee since its grand opening in October. The roastery is not a storefront, but the company will open a pick-up window where local customers can pick up pre-purchased bags of tea and coffee on Feb. 1.

The roastery is only step one to a three-stage plan for downtown Batesburg. The Sowards own two other buildings near the roastery, one of which will be renovated into a functioning coffee shop, while the other will be turned into a storefront education center. 

The education center, Carolina Homestead Exchange, is meant to be a place where farming and homesteading skills can be taught.

“It will largely be about homesteading and gardening,” Jessica said. “We’ll have supplies for keeping chickens, bees and home dairy supplies.”

Many of the classes will be free and open to anyone. 

“We would like to make resources accessible to people, even if people have low budgets,” Jessica said.

The coffee shop will be located next to the roastery and will have a full menu and a storefront where customers can talk with baristas and purchase products in person. 

Beulah won’t stop there. The owners hope to partner with town administration to launch local farmers markets on Oak Street.

The market would feature local farmers and craft vendors in town. Sowards hopes the effort will bring more attention to local produce and healthier habits.

“We will hopefully create a space for people to bring the goods that they're growing and creating to sell,” Jessica said. “We want to give the town a great place for an outing.”

Building communities doesn’t stop in town. She hopes her business will lead to more positive advancements in the towns of her farm-direct relationships.

Beulah has two farm-direct relationships, one in the South African country of Ethiopia and the other in Guatemala. 

“Our hope is to be able to show people where their coffee comes from and allow conscious consumers to invest their dollars in a way that helps the people who are growing their coffee,” Jessica said. 

Abuse in the coffee industry is nothing new. In 2009, Nestlé admitted to the alleged involvement in human trafficking on coffee plantations in Brazil. 

Abuse on coffee farms doesn’t necessarily come from big companies but often results from local government pressure and poor labor choices within the country. 

“In many instances, a lack of effective government, corruption, social upheaval, and broken infrastructure can contribute to poor working conditions,” according to the National Coffee Association of the United States.

In 2017, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs launched a project to identify and connect with coffee farmers in Honduras to ensure fair and honest labor practices. The project ended in December 2023.

The Bureau implemented social compliance tools in six coffee cooperatives that export to the U.S., and more than 100 coffee producers adopted the project's self-assessment guide, which gives producers the resources to identify flaws in its production chain.

“It's very important to us to work with sources of coffee beans that all the hands that touch them are treated well,” Jessica said. “The coffee industry is an industry that exploits a lot of people. And especially here in America, we don't always think about our consumption.”

“When we're demanding cheap products or readily available products … sometimes that means that somewhere on the other side of the world somebody is not being taken care of,” she added. “It was really important for us to kind of cut out the middleman and work directly so that the farmers who are growing the coffee are being paid well for their work.”

Statista, a global business data platform, projected the coffee industry to make more than $90 billion worldwide by the end of 2024. 

It also predicts the coffee industry to grow by 4.4% between 2024 and 2028. 

Jessica paid close attention while sourcing beans for Beulah, meeting with farm owners and workers to ensure her coffee comes from an ethical source. 

“The son of a coffee farmer, he's able to show us that through direct sales to the coffee farms in his village, the village's population has grown, they've been able to build a school, they've been able to bring health care into their village and it's creating opportunity in a village because they have the money to do those things,” she said.

Sowards has published a multitude of videos on her YouTube channel, Roots & Refuge. She knew when she started this journey that her platform would not only help her business but that it meant she had the power to educate and inspire change. 

“We want more people engaged in supporting local businesses,” Sowards said. “When you are supporting somebody's dream, you’re supporting families, you’re supporting villages- especially when people are ethically sourcing. You are voting with your dollars whenever you purchase things mindfully that way.”

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