Devon “Beau” Barker

Devon “Beau” Barker

Chronicler, Perfectibilist, Rambler

Originally from Steamboat Springs, CO, Devon ditched his 9-to-5 for a life on the road in pursuit of the next great story. His specialty? Shedding light on seemingly ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things. Alongside his aerialist wife Kaydee and their border collie Saydie, the three took to the nomadic lifestyle with ease and don’t plan on slowing down any time soon.

Current Project: Coffee Farming in Guatemala

A documentary illustrating the effect of direct trade relationships on the livelihoods of coffee farmers in Yepocapa and the changing landscape of the coffee industry. Following the day to day lives of a few workers, we share in both their hardships and the stories of their successes. Head to the blog to get a first look.

How did you come to be involved in this project? I’ve always enjoyed good coffees, but the culprit here is my buddy Ryan. A couple years ago, he was the token gringo teaching English in the town where our film was shot, and after hearing the story of the farmers and the co-op he was working with, he gave me a call about visiting. Of course there was no way I would say no to maiz tortillas, volcanoes and hot springs, so we went down for a month to scout and hike around the jungle with the farmers and get to know their story. Now that there’s marketing and greater awareness behind things like Fair Trade, how does the coffee industry compare to others in terms of improving ethics, sustainability and treatment of farmers? It really depends on which part of the world we are talking about. The USA is so far behind the rest of the world in coffee culture that we still have a lot to learn about the process, expertise and work it takes to get coffee to our cup. While the Fair Trade brand has certainly helped bring light to some of the issues that are inherent in the supply chain, it really doesn’t sufficiently address the economics of micro-lot farms and is particularly ineffective in Guatemala. The coffee industry here is on the brink of what could be a shift to ethical sourcing, but unless consumers take the time to educate themselves and question where coffee shops source their products, the bottom line for small-plot farmers will continue to dwindle.

How did you end up deciding on a narrative for the film? I decided from the beginning that I didn’t want to make another film about the source/history/etc of coffee, but wanted my audience to make a connection with the men and women who are directly affected by their decisions and see what daily life for them looks like. The film is entirely narrated by firsthand accounts from the farmers and is a portrait of the struggle and honor in small, multi-generational farms… so in a way I really didn’t decide!

Without spoiling too much of the film, what can you tell us about what it was like to be shooting in the vicinity of an active volcano? Unpredictable, ridiculous, awesome and intimidating are the best words to describe the range of emotions I feel when I think about the volcano. I don’t think it really hit home how close we were until we were mid-interview and it started raining rocks on us and the gear!

If people were to take away only one thing from seeing this, what would you want it to be? I hope people come away from it curious. Specifically, I hope it drives conversations about how something as simple as a coffee bean makes it to your cup. 

Oh and the Cambridge Volcanology department just flew some drones over the volcano we were under: