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Counter Culture Coffee recently joined forces with Chapel Hill, NC's HOPE Gardens for their fall fundraiser.
Initially conceived as an agricultural education space for the University and Chapel Hill community that would produce seeds for marginalized farming communities abroad, HOPE Gardens quickly developed into a community space with a local purpose. In the fall of 2008, students from UNC's HOPE (Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication) committee of the Campus Y developed HOPE Gardens as a tool for social justice right here in our community: a transitional employment program for homeless individuals and an inclusive community garden, each meant to facilitate relationships and dialogue among the student, homeless, low-income, and broader Chapel Hill communities in a side-by-side work environment.
In essence, HOPE Gardens creates a community space that fosters relationships, educates the community, and addresses barriers to food access through shared efforts in sustainable agriculture. Counter Culture was pleased to be able to support with a such an important initiative in one of our local communities by donating a Farmhouse subscription to their fundraising raffle.
On November 17, some 57 individuals gathered at Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe to support HOPE Gardens for their fall fundraiser. The three-course meal, which was prepared and served entirely by volunteers with Vimala's guidance, included local grass-fed beef, pumpkin soup, and sweet potato custard. After the dinner, Alice Ammerman from the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention spoke about the importance of emphasizing social justice through food equity and read the poem that she wrote for HOPE Gardens' ribbon cutting in 2009. The evening concluded with the raffle and live jazz performed by UNC students.
In total, the event raised over $2,500 to support programs such as HOPE Garden's free cooking classes and sponsored plots.
If you think your organization might be a good fit for Counter Culture's partnership, and you are located close to one of our eight Training Centers, don't hesitate to get in touch here.
As we say in our Direct Trade report, Cenfrocafe is truly a model among cooperatives, and they are a joy to visit and learn from each time. This visit included all of the usual elements – from producer meetings to meeting with cooperative leadership, cupping, and, in general, hearing about highlights and challenges currently facing the group.
Cenfrocafe has grown by almost 30% this year in its volumes. The coffee we received from this group and sell as Valle del Santuario and La Frontera has been exceptional this year. Our hope is to continue to hone in on even greater volumes of this quality coffee. Already on the larger side with 2,680 members, they have 240 more members going through the one-year trial period. They are, after 12 years of operation, getting to be a well-oiled machine. In addition to the business of coffee, they are intentionally working on helping producers with diversification efforts, health resources, and continued integration of youth and women in the cooperative. Of course, they still have kinks to work out in stabilizing volumes, lot separation, and best representing the needs of cooperative members.
Leaf rust is beginning to prove challenging, and some producers have lost up to 3,000 trees or more as a result. Conversations about how to prevent and renovate are serious. And, continuing to have the conversation about producing quality coffee alongside conversations about protection and disease resistant varieties is inevitable. The hope is that Cenfrocafe can continue to take a proactive role in regard to producers' needs for prevention training and on-farm investments.
Coffee quality this year was lagging in July and August at the beginning of the harvest, but they had higher hopes as they saw great improvements in October. I believe our coffee this year reflects that change. And, it again emphasizes the benefits of being by the cooperative's side – as true partners – not just for one harvest or one great run, but through the ups and downs.
I hope you'll enjoy these photos of my last week in Peru!
From the embed above, click [full screen] and [show info] for Hannah's annotated notes on each photo. You can also view Hannah's trip report on Flickr.
Bilal Sarwari works with adolescents in psychiatric crisis through therapeutic gardeningOur own Emily Davis in Atlanta made a fruitful connection with a local partner, Bilal Sarwari, who works with adolescents in psychiatric crisis through therapeutic gardening. The group is located in Decatur and, as Bilal says, the "program has been a great source of stress relief for our clients, and we even have adult clients who come down from our other facilities [who] volunteer."
Here's a little bit more from Bilal about exactly how our Atlanta Training Center's coffee grounds help:
Coffee grounds are essentially prepped for use in sustainable agriculture: they are wet (bacteria and fungi need water to grow), they are ground (provides increased surface area for microorganisms to attach), natural deoderizers, and rich in nitrogen (seeds contain a great deal of DNA per capita and DNA consists of nitrogen base pairs). Essentially, coffee grounds make great compost and worms love it – and I love earthworms.
Secondly, your coffee grounds provide a natural defense against ants. After two years of hard work, our soil is rich and loose. Ants love to build their colonies in our garden beds. Last year, I read an article from that suggested using coffee grounds against ants. I tried it on an ant pile and two days later the ants were gone. I was amazed. Now the gardens smell like finely-roasted beans, and I don't have to worry about the health effects of dangerous pesticides on our clients' growing bodies.
Our hope is that other local groups close to our various training centers feel similarly inspired to use our excess coffee grounds. The possibilities are endless!
Thanks, Bilal, for truly multiplying the good that can come from what has previously been considered a waste product.

Learn more about our transparency efforts in our 2013 Transparency Report.
The closing event of our Sustainable Summer campaign last Friday and the long Labor Day weekend have me looking ahead to fall, and it's around this time each year that I begin to reflect on the progress we have made and what we can accomplish before the year's end. Our progress has also been much on my mind as I've reviewed the Sustainability Annual Report for 2012, which we publish today in conjunction with the Direct Trade Transparency Report. Readers of our three reports and six scorecards of the past years (hello, fellow sustainability nerds!) will see some changes to the format of this year's report, which highlights some of our more significant accomplishments and adds context to some of our statistics. I hope you enjoy this year's reports and can learn from our experiences, and as always, thanks.
Kim Elena
Welcome to Sustainable Summer, a month-long community effort dedicated to making small changes on big issues.On Friday, August 30, we're celebrating #SustainableSummer at each of our Training Centers (following our weekly cupping) with organic snacks, lively conversation, and a panel discussion about climate change and the future. Of course, there will also be plenty of coffee. Click here for details.

The get-togethers will revolve around a panel discussion with sustainability luminaries Scott Marlow of the Rural Advancement Foundation International and Mausi Kuhl of Selva Negra/La Hammonia coffee farm in Nicaragua. The panel discussion will be broadcast on our YouTube channel.

Join us, as well as our friends at Rishi Tea, Taza Chocolate, King Arthur Flour, Patagonia, and TS Designs, as we send this summer out with a sustainable bang in this final week of #SustainableSummer by taking the pledge to conserve resources on Facebook or e-mail us for more information.

Farm51 started as a vacant lot and is now host to vegetables, chickens, and cut flowers.Many of you are already familiar with the initiatives we decide to invest in abroad, known as our Seeds projects. This year, we have heightened our emphasis on local investing as well – uniting both local and international efforts under the banner of sustainable agriculture and hunger prevention. Since our staff are scattered throughout the US, we have asked them to investigate the meaningful work being done in their communities around these two areas. Then, they bring them to the table for us to assess and collaborate.

One of our regions, Philadelphia, has taken this charge quite seriously. Early on, they began connecting with farm51, a small-scale urban educational farm founded in 2008 in West Philly. Most recently, Chelsea Thoumsin, our Customer Representative in Philly, decided she'd like for us to help support a fundraiser the farm will be hosting on September 6. The farm is a place where community is built and strengthened, where many hands make light work, and where people can connect directly with their food source. What started as a vacant lot is now host to vegetables, chickens, and cut flowers. You can learn more about this innovative and industrious farm on their website. And, if you find yourself in Philly on September 6, check out their fundraiser.

Our hope is that our knowledge of and ability to support similar groups in all of our regions will only continue to grow. If you know of any we should know about, don't hesitate to be in touch.

Til next time,
WG Pearson students celebrate their new school garden in Durham!So, you all might start to think I have a small obsession with reusing bags – but seriously, so many exciting things are happening in the upcycle bag world!

Last week, we were asked by a local elementary school, WG Pearson, to help them inaugurate their school garden. For the last couple of months, they have been preparing the beds and just recently put down seeds and a few plants. Conveniently, in their early stages of garden planning, they went right down the road to get some of our coffee burlap bags for – that's right – weed barriers!

The 1st through 5th graders at the school have committed to create and maintain the garden organically. There were about 100 of them present for the garden party to dedicate the garden. Those kids knew what was up, with their hands waving in the air to answer "What is a seedling?" and "What are pesticides?" and "What is soil?"

Along with Counter Culture, North Carolina Central University and the Durham Public School system supported this effort, demonstrating what can happen when partnerships are formed. There are three separate beds that include an herb garden, an heirloom section, and other vegetables. The hope is that the students have the opportunity to start early to connect with where food comes from and to be able to continue healthy lifelong practices.

We are grateful for the chance to be a part of such an inspiring project!