Bill, Yuri, Esperanza, Tripp and Carlos all discuss Fair Trade, organic coffee.

L-R: Bill Harris, Yuri Pilliume, Esperanza Dionisio, Tripp Pomero and Carlos Reynoso, discuss challenges and opportunities in the fair trade, organic coffee industry.

As a part of our 20th anniversary festivities, we have welcomed leaders of fair trade coffee cooperatives to celebrate with us in Americus Oct. 5-6.   Yuri Pilliume of Colombia’s Fondo Paez, Esperanza Dionisio of Peru’s CAC Pangoa and Carlos Reynoso of Guatemala’s Manos Campesinas each sells coffee to us, and each is a leader in the world of specialty-grade, organic, fair trade coffee.

We want you to know them.

If you are coming to Americus, please chat with them when you see them, or join us for a panel discussion at our coffee house on Saturday, Oct. 6 from 3-4:30 p.m.

In the mean time, learn a little more about the people behind the cup.  Read the question-and-answer series with each producer partner below.

Esperanza Dionisio Castillo, General Manager
CAC Pangoa, PERU

Farmer Membership: about 650
Google Map
Past Visit from Esperanza
More on CAC Pangoa

  1. You’ve been with CAC Pangoa for 20 years.  What have been some of your greatest successes? – I joined the Pangoa Cooperative when there was social chaos and they were heavily in debt. The success is having achieved the credibility of the cooperative members and their confidence in the co-op system. Having exported directly under fair trade conditions in the year 2003, I was very excited to sell at $141 when coffee was sold at $70 (market rate). We have paid all the debts without selling any assets.
  2. You were an agronomist living in Lima before you came to work with Pangoa.  How did your life change when you joined Pangoa? When I was 8 years old my father took me to the jungle. I went on horseback, and that beautiful memory of walking in the woods was recorded in my mind. When I was at University I took many courses about tropical soils, thinking of traveling to the jungle. I started working in the co-op Satipo in the year 1977. It is 36 km away from Pangoa. They had some doubt about hiring me but were faced with the challenge of an engineer leaving the extension work. They thought maybe a woman could do it well, so they trusted me. In 1980, they offered me to go to work in the Technical Department of Pangoa, so I traveled to Brazil for training. When I returned I was the boss and was in charge of male engineers. I was the only woman among many men. I knew how to drive a motorcycle, and I could explain to them with patience and give the farmers examples from their own farms of the work (they should do) to improve coffee productivity. So they started to believe in a woman, with results – I had to know more than them so that they would trust me.
  3. What are some of Pangoa’s current challenges?-  “Esperanza’s hope is for Pangoa to continue working without Esperanza.” For several years, we have been investigating the generational change at the level of partners, managers and management. For this, we are working on (developing) values ​​- honesty, responsibility, altruism, solidarity – because we are the people who make up the Cooperative company. We are recruiting children of partners for the key posts and drafting all the processes that exist in the coop – regulations, policies, and of course our status updates.
  4. How do you see the specialty coffee industry evolving in 25 or 50 years?– The tendency is to consume healthy products, free of pesticides, to conserve health among people of all economic levels. So, organic, biodynamic production will grow, and the coffee producers will conserve their health, and the consumer will also be taken care of. There will be a greater tendency toward traceability, and coffee will be one of the products that will help conserve soil and water and maintain a balanced environment.
    Pangoa is generally considered to be one of the best-operating Fair Trade cooperatives.
  5. Why do you think Pangoa has been successful?  – Due to constant social balance, we are investigating what the partner needs. The PRIMA FLO was created in 2006 with revolving funds for the education of partners’ children for the health of the member and his family. The women’s committee was created in 1997, and it started with a leadership school in 2008. The statute was revised and updated, employees are invested for Q graders, training trips are encouraged, the quality control laboratory was built, and since 2013 (we have been selling) coffee by the cup. These are recommended to the partner who must improve their field. We have clients like Coop Coofees, whose roasters come and they teach us, they guide us. (They are) clients that have the same philosophy as Pangoa. For any change, we call the partners to Assemblies and we communicate quickly through an education committee that gives the partners informative tours
    . We agree annually to practice 3 values; for 2018 they are responsibility, respect and loyalty, at the level of partners, managers, collaborators.
  6. What is a normal week for you?/How do you spend your time?
    – Review the work progress of each area: associative and business
    -Requests are made, and if they are delayed we call them and ask the reason and then they are reconsidered
    -Communicate with the executives who come in shifts
    -Assist partners in their queries of credit, stock, and others
    -Check the collection and shipments of coffee and cocoa
    -Review financing and make sure there is no shortage of cash in the account
    -At 4 a.m. I read emails. During the day I cannot because I visit the areas looking for strategies for improvements. There are also meetings with NGOs, visits with human resources to review contracts
    -We are attentive to SUNAT (Superintendencia Nacional de Aduanas y de Administración Tributaria – the organization that enforces customs and taxation in Peru) with accounting
    -There is a team of collaborators that work well with the executives who are thinking and sharing their concerns
  7. What inspires you in your work?

a) That through a cooperative company we can connect to similar groups in the world to do business and improve the income of the members.
b) That our industry of roasted coffee and chocolates grows and that more Peruvians consume healthy products with the Pangoa brand.
c) That we are a large family with cooperative philosophy.
d) The cooperative is an active life and you learn a lot every day.

8. What advice do you have for women in leadership roles? Be consistent. Look long term. Train constantly. Be mature emotionally. Believe in a superior being.

9. Why did you want to attend this celebration for Cafe Campesino?
Because of its history – it is a founding partner of Coop Coffees that understands the needs of the partner coffee producer – and because we agree on principles, values ​​and vision. We consider ourselves as one family.

Pangoa is considered one of the best operating fair trade cooperatives in existence.  In addition to coffee, the organization also sells cacao (some of which is purchased by our Atlanta bean-to-bar friends, Xocolatl) and honey.

Yuri, president of Colombia’s Fondo Paez, presents hand-made gifts to Cafe Campesino staff, as Esperanza of Pangoa and Tripp listen to their meaning.

Yuri Pilliume, President
Fondo Paez, COLOMBIA
Fondo Paez Background
Co-op size: about 500 small-scale farmers
Google Map
Co-op Background & Recent Video
Fondo Paez Profile 

1) How long have you been the president of Fondo Paez? I am the first woman representative of the organization. There have been 7 men representatives, and it has been 4 years since I assumed the role of legal representative.

2) What are examples of recent successes of Fondo Paez? Our recent examples have been our group of tasters for the organization and some projects that I have been able to find for the welfare of my Association. Each customer visit is also an achievement for us.

3) How do you feel about being a woman in the coffee sector and your role as a leader? Were there any issues in terms of gender and the leadership of the organization?
The power of men is very highlighted in our culture; however, it depends on one’s willingness as a woman to want to be part of this challenge. For example, there can be difficulties at the family level because I am a single mother. However, I have a brother who supports me a lot, and since I have been part of the Association since its creation, it is not a complicated organizational or political issue.

4) It seems that Fondo Paez focuses a lot on respect for the “Mother Earth”. What is the role of Mother Earth in the Nasa culture? It’s that the land is our only inheritance, and we take care of it as a mother because the land does not grow by itself, and if we neglect it, it will no longer produce our daily sustenance.

5) How many people speak the Nasa language? Not everyone speaks Nasa because we cover a large mix of ethnicities. There are Nasas Misak and farmers, so it can be said that 80% speak it.

6) How does Fondo Paez preserve the traditions or culture of Nasa? The creation of the Association is under the Nasa context, which are the principles of caring for Mother Earth, produce under the phases of the moon, and knowing how to coexist with Mother Nature under the ancestral guides like the water, the rays of the sun, the storm and the Rainbow.

7) What do you want Americans to know about Fondo Paez coffee? The Americans are the ones who know the most about us. For example, we have been exporting our coffee since 2003, and every year they visit us, and every year we can take them to different places because we are 28 coffee producing groups. And in that way, they have a different impact. However, the only thing we can do is guarantee a product that is produced with the effort of each producer so that you can have it in your daily meals.

In addition to being a small-scale farmer with approximately 1,500 plants in cultivation, Yuri is also a member of the internal controls committee of the Colombia Initiative for Fair Trade, Solidarity and Sustainability and the Vice President of the Standards Committee of the Small Producers Symbol (SPP).  Café Campesino has been buying coffee from Fondo Paez since 2003.

Carlos Reynoso of Guatemala’s Manos Campesinas shows unripe coffee cherries on a tree in Guatemala. Picture from a 2011 visit to APECAFORM.

Carlos Reynoso, Manager
Manos Campesinas, GUATEMALA
Manos is a secondary-level cooperative made up of 13 primary cooperatives.  It represents 1,400 small-scale farmers throughout Guatemala.  The APECAFORM of San Marcos, Guatemala, is one of those cooperatives. Cafe Campesino has been purchasing coffee from APECAFORM for 18 years.
APECAFORM membership: about 400 small-scale farmers
More on APECAFORM
A Recent visit to APECAFORM

1) How long have you been with Manos Campesinas?  About 12 years

2) What changes have you seen in the organization over the years? An improvement to member services, a better quality coffee, increased sales and improved processes in general.

3)What are some of Mano’s greatest successes? Increased production, the quality of our allies (buyers and customers), gaining the trust of our members.

4) What have been some of your challenges? Growing sales, adapting to climate change, improving our integration of young people and women.

5) What does Manos Campesinas represent for Guatemala’s coffee industry?  A solid organization that is socially responsible and transparent.

6) What changes do you see coming for Manos Campesinas in the next 25 years?  We will own more coffee shops, we will grow the number of farmer-members in the organization, and we will create alliances with other organizations that can help benefit producers and their communities.

7) In the last 20 years, what has changed for APECAFORM farmers?  They have grown to trust the cooperative, they have improved their organizational processes and improved their production capacity.

8) Do you have hope in the future of specialty coffee?  (Yes).  We can innovate.  Producers are creative.  We can add more value to the production at origin so that we can control more of the supply chain.

9) Talk about your role at CLAC (Latin American and Caribbean Network of Fair Trade).  How do you work with coffee farmers in this context? To be the voice of the producers.  I organize strategic discussions about the global fair trade system and defend the farmers’ ideals.

10) Why did you decide to join Cafe Campesino for its 20th Anniversary celebration?  It’s an opportunity to strengthen our work together and evaluate new possibilities of mutual support.

Carlos is also a small-scale coffee farmer in Guatemala’s Western Highlands.

Cafe Campesino coffee educator Hannah Mercer travelling to coffee origin in Peru

I’ll be the first to admit that when I began working in coffee, I didn’t really understand it.  Between being hired at Cafe Campesino and working my first shift, I did a little studying about roast profiles, drinks, and fair trade – but I honestly didn’t know how coffee was grown. I was NEW to the coffee world, and it took me engaging with a community outside of my own company to really understand how special Cafe Campesino is.

Read more

Cafe Campesino celebrates 20 years this year.
Cafe Campesino celebrates 20 years this year.

Bill Harris has been on a self-described “coffee tangent” for the last 20 years. This year, he goes back to where it all started, and you’re invited to join.

Some 20 years after meeting a coffee farmer on a Habitat for Humanity trip, Bill Harris will join Habitat again, returning to the very town where he was inspired to start Café Campesino- San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala.

This Nov. 10-18, 2018,“Back-to -Guatemala” service trip will organize volunteers to build smokeless stoves in homes around San Lucas Toliman and feature excursions to nearby coffee farms.

Coffee professionals looking to learn more about rural Guatemala, Habitat for Humanity’s international work, or the origins of an industry-leading sustainable coffee supply chain, are encouraged to participate.

Since starting Café Campesino in 1998, Bill has returned to Guatemala more times than he can count, but he has not gone back as a Habitat volunteer in 19 years.

“I’m thrilled to be returning to San Lucas Toliman on Lake Atitlan to help families in that area again,” he said, adding that he was curious to see how many families in the area would be working with coffee.  “It’s one of the most famous coffee-growing regions in the world.”

Over the years, Bill has traveled extensively to the departments of Quiché and San Marcos, where Café Campesino sources its coffee, and he has seen the need for improved air quality in homes that use wood-burning stoves.

“In particular, we’ve noticed so many coffee farming families that have really difficult conditions in the homes, with women & children living in smoky rooms all day long.  We’re excited to help build safer kitchens for those who need it,” he said.

individuals measure a smokeless stove installation

Habitat volunteers installing a smokeless stove.  Photo courtesy of Joe Johnston.

Habitat estimates that 90 percent of rural Guatemalan families use wood as their primary cooking fuel and most cook using an open fire inside the home. This contributes to respiratory illnesses and deforestation across the country.  Smokeless stoves, however, are built with adobe blocks and a metal pipe to ventilate smoke outside of the home, which improves indoor air quality and uses about 60 percent less firewood.

Smokeless stove installations are a part of Habitat’s efforts to improve household conditions that negatively impact physical health.  The organization also installs sanitary latrines and works with families to filter their drinking water.

Process of installing a smokeless stove

Smokeless Stove installation.  Note the exhaust pipe and adobe brick foundation. Photos courtesy of Joe Johnston.

Bill started importing coffee directly from small-scale farmers after talking with a coffee farmer during a Habitat home-building project in 1997.  During that conversation, the farmer helped Bill understand that middlemen in the coffee supply chain were absorbing his profits.

Despite doing the labor-intensive work of caring for coffee trees, hand-picking coffee cherries and preparing coffee for export, farmers have traditionally earned the lowest percentage of profits, because they often do not have direct access to buyers.

Bill with coffee farmers in Guatemala in 2011.

Bill and Cafe Campesino CEO Tripp Pomeroy in San Marcos, Guatemala, with members of the APECAFORM coffee farmers’ cooperative.

When Bill started Café Campesino in 1998, he had this in mind.  He started importing coffee directly from small-scale farmers who were organized into cooperatives.  That farmer-cooperative model in Latin America inspired a roaster-cooperative model in North America.  In 2000, Bill found five other coffee roasters in the Eastern United States who wanted to source directly from farmer cooperatives using fair and environmentally responsible principles to guide their terms of trade.  Cooperative Coffees was born, forming a one-of-a-kind importing collaboration between small-scale roasters in North America. Today, Cooperative Coffees has more than 20 roasters-members in the U.S. and Canada who have collectively imported more than $80 million of fair trade, organic coffee directly from farmers.

The group also leads the coffee industry in its terms of trade- returning year after year to source from the same farmer groups, facilitating access to pre-financing for farmer groups and re-opening closed coffee contracts so farmers can benefit from higher coffee prices at harvest time.

Bill Harris in his Habitat for Humanity shirt, holding a carafe of Chemex-brewed coffee and a hammer.

With a Chemex in one hand and a hammer in the other, Bill Harris returns to Guatemala with Habitat this November.

Café Campesino has also assumed a leadership role in the coffee industry.  Based in Americus, Ga., it is the state’s only Certified B Corp outside of metro-Atlanta; it sources and sells coffee-house supplies that align with its values, such as compostable to-go ware, fair trade, organic teas and a full line of organic syrups.  It also trains coffee industry professionals at its Specialty Coffee Association Premier Training Campus and operates a restaurant and coffee house in Americus.

Because Café Campesino and Habitat for Humanity both started in Americus, individuals who were involved in both entities’ “early days” are expected to participate in this trip.

In fact, Joe Johnston, a former Café Campesino employee who has been working with Habitat for Humanity International for the past 8 years, will be leading this November trip to Guatemala.  Joe opened Café Campesino’s first coffee house in 2007 that was located adjacent to the company’s roastery.  Today, Joe manages staff and Habitat Global Village teams that travel the world.

Traveling internationally with Habitat changed Joe’s life.  It certainly changed Bill’s life.  And it will no-doubt impact yours.  Join Joe and Bill this November as they ponder life, learn more about San Lucas Toliman coffee and help families in need. Learn More.

Wood Thrush lives in shade-grown coffee farms.
Wood Thrush lives in shade-grown coffee farms.

Habitat conservation in North and Central America can help save the Wood Thrush from extinction.  Photo by Mary Kimberly.

About the size of an Eastern Blue Bird, the Wood Thrush is a small, reddish-brown bird whose color descends into spots on its white chest and belly.  Weighing about 40-50 grams, this reclusive bird uses its song to establish its territory in the early mornings. Then, it descends into the forest to forage, scratching up invertebrates or plucking ripe berries from native shrubs.  The shells of snails are especially beneficial to Wood Thrushes who need the extra calcium to reinforce the durability of their turquoise-colored eggs.

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Hannah Mercer is an Authorized Specialty Coffee Trainer with Cafe Campesino. She is teaching at the SCA Global Expo in Seattle April 19 and 20 2018.

Americus, Georgia – April 18, 2018 – Cafe Campesino’s Hannah Mercer will be teaching professional coffee classes at the Specialty Coffee Association’s Global Coffee Expo held in Seattle this week.

An Authorized Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Trainer, Hannah will be the lead instructor for a Barista Foundations class offered during the expo on Friday, April 20.  In this class, she will teach some 40 students best practices for pulling espresso shots and steaming milk – the foundational skills needed to build espresso-based beverages such as lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos.

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Hannah Mercer is an Authorized Sprecialty Coffee Association Trainer

From Entry-Level Barista To Certified Coffee Educator

Do you suspect, beneath the surface of your everyday life, there brews a latent desire to know everything there is about coffee but you don’t know where to start? Keep reading, cause that’s what happened to me. I always want to know more about anything I’m involved with, so when I started working at a coffee shop, my interest lead me on a journey through the supply chain of coffee across the United States and all over the world. There is much still to learn, see and experience, and so many people to meet.

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On a muggy February morning in 2017, Hannah Mercer dipped her toes in the chilly Atlantic waters near Miami Beach and wondered what the next few hours would bring. She was headed to Colombia- a land of myth and mystery for the coffee professional and a destination she’d seen in pictures for years.

With equal parts excitement and anxiety, she imagined getting off the plane in Cali, driving to remote villages in the country’s coffee lands, and finally meeting the faces from the photos. She had an idea of what was to come but not a full picture.

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Café Campesino coffee roaster Ethan Ryan traveled to Guatemal to meet producer partners at the APECAFORM cooperative and learn about coffee harvesting and exporting

Ethan Ryan, our roaster extraordinaire, traveled to Guatemala for the first time in May to meet producer partners at the APECAFORM cooperative, learn about coffee harvesting and exporting, and generally polish up on his Spanish. It was his first time abroad. And his first time at coffee origin.

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