Group learns the coffee growing business from local farmers
May 31, 2017
A group of Presbyterians got some hands-on experience in coffee farming during a recent trip to Nicaragua. The 11-member delegation, which included staff from the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP), World Mission and Equal Exchange, spent a week learning about fair trade and how the coffee is grown, processed and shipped to other countries.
“We spent three days and two nights in the mountains of Canto Gallo with the coffee farmers,” said Jessica Maudlin, associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns in PHP. “A few members of the delegation had never been to Nicaragua and weren’t familiar with Equal Exchange.”
Equal Exchange is one of the largest worker cooperatives in the United States and the world’s largest worker-owned coffee roaster. Through its partnership with PHP, Equal Exchange can connect products like fair-trade coffee with U.S. markets.
Among those making the trip for the first time was Craig Brown, a veterinarian from Midland, Texas, and elder at Grace Presbyterian Church.
“The reason I went was to see what fair-trade coffee really means because you hear about how great it is, but I wanted to see it,” he said. “I was able to see the whole process, the benefits of extra money the farmers receive and how it goes to the community to build schools as well as social and community centers. We learned about the fair-trade process of growing, making, tasting and testing as well as how they prepare to sell it.”
After traveling dirt roads to the remote farms, the delegation stayed with farmers and their families in their homes. Brown said they harvested coffee cherries and observed as the cherries went from bush to basket to co-op and then were prepared for shipment.
After the on-site visits with farming families, the delegation spent the remainder of the visit learning about the history of Nicaragua and trade in the country.
Brown said he wasted little time upon his return, sharing his experiences with his congregation and selling the coffee he brought home.
“I’m a veterinarian and brought some of the coffee to the clinic, and now I have clients that are buying it,” he said. “We have sold about $1,000 worth at our church since our return. It has been a good way to promote the fair-trade coffee experience and help small farmers at the same time.”
Maudlin says that for every pound of coffee purchased through Equal Exchange, there is a 15-cent premium per pound that comes back to the Presbyterian Hunger Program through the Small Farmer Fund.
“Presbyterians have purchased coffee through the partnership with Equal Exchange allowing us to raise more than $25,000 in last the two years to fund projects in places like India, Columbia and Nicaragua,” Maudlin said. “The Presbyterian Hunger Program strongly values all people and strives to stand in solidarity with those who are trying to make ends meet. Fair trade empowers people helping themselves by honoring their effort with a fair wage, in exchange for items we need and want.”
Brown says once people understand the significance behind fair trade, it’s an easy sell.
“Our congregation knows us and knows that we have lived the experience,” he said. “We really didn’t have to do much in the way of selling. We had the coffee there and it all disappeared on the first day at church.”
Rick Jones, Mission Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian fair-trade delegation in Nicaragua
Let us join in prayer for:
Grace Presbyterian Church Staff
Cheryl Homsher, pastor
Adalinda Carl, office administrator
Barbara Wischmeier, director of music
Kelcy Truszkowski, director of children’s ministry
Josafina Amezcus-Garcia, Sunday morning nursery
Raquel Mendoza, Sunday morning nursery
Manuela Silvas, Sunday morning nursery
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, sustain us as we seek to sustain each other: in the beauty of your kingdom, with the bounty of your earth, amid the needs of your cities and through the fellowship of neighbors working together. Amen.