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Seeds is an acronym that stands for Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source. Our Seeds program was created to structure and define Counter Culture's monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. To date, we have contributed a total of $24,963 to projects in 6 countries. We'd like to catch you up on the projects we have funded over the last couple of years through our Seeds program with eye toward more regular updates of ongoing projects.
 
Our Second Project: Activity Field Adjacent to a School
Finca Pashapa
Pashapa, Honduras
 
The Cancha Pashapa activity field in Pashapa, Honduras.
In 2011, we were approached by a longtime partner of ours, Roberto Salazar, who had a vision for his community. Together, nearby producers had often talked about their desire to have a community space where people could gather. Initially, the community board came together to discuss the added value of an activity field.
 
The goal was to provide a safe space for youth to gather and to encourage substance abuse prevention through providing an alternative activity. Once all were in consensus, they began to plan. They agreed to contribute a large monetary amount on their own for the success of the project and then reached out to Counter Culture.
 
Activity "fields" in Latin America are often made out of poured concrete, much like a basketball court. Here people gather to play all manner of sports, most popular being soccer and volleyball. I suppose some of the rational for cement playing fields is that they are often in very rainy areas, so, while it may be slightly painful if you were to fall and scrape yourself, it’s preferable to sinking in the mud while trying to beat your competitor!
 
Now that the field has been built, it has been well-used. The youth of the area come out often to play sports. When adults in the community see their activities, they are also inspired and often join in or simply use the field as a meeting space. The community leadership let us know that they feel pleased about the field’s ability to contribute to the physical and emotional well being of the community.
 
Stay tuned for the next installment in our updates on Seeds projects!
 
'Til next time,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
What is Seeds?
 
Seeds is an acronym that stands for Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source, and our Seeds program was created to structure and define Counter Culture's monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. We allocated our first funds in January of 2011 and have made approximately one contribution per quarter since then. We decided to earmark a penny per pound of coffee we purchase to Seeds, and, since its inception, we have directed money to agricultural training programs, research projects, and a food security initiative, among other projects. To date, we have contributed a total of $24,963 to projects in 6 countries.
 
We'd like to catch you up on the projects we have funded over the last couple of years through our Seeds program with eye toward more regular updates of ongoing projects. Over the next few months, we will be sharing weekly stories about each of the projects.
 
Our First Project: Youth Trainers
CENFROCAFE Cooperative
San Ignacio, Peru
 
Youth Trainers from CENFROCAFE in San Ignacio, Peru.
CENFROCAFE is a cooperative in Northern Peru that we have worked with since 2006. This relationship brings us our Valle del Santuario and La Frontera coffees.
 
In 2010, Cenfrocafe selected 50 youth trainers out of 120 candidates. In 2011, when Counter Culture entered the scene, they had retained 45 of trainers, and, in 2012, there were 30, at which point they trained 10 more. At this point, the young trainers are able to visit the co-op members almost year-round. They hold workshops on topics such as fertilizers, pest control, and documentation of inputs at the farm level. They are each assigned a zone to focus on and have reached more than half of CENFROCAFE's membership – more than 1,500 members.
 
During our recent with the co-op, Aleneor, a youth trainer in his third year, was incredibly enthusiastic and eager to answer questions about the program. He seemed to truly enjoy the range of his training and subsequent responsibilities that included everything from learning how the business side of the co-op functions to pricing to agricultural practices. Aleneor spoke eloquently about how his relationships with producers changed over time and the importance of strategies to build their trust. And, he was eager to tell how suggestions made by trainers truly pay off in the long run.
 
Among the challenges for youth trainers is the desire to visit co-op members multiple times throughout the year with more targeted topics. At this point, the trainers and their leadership are trying to assess the different topics that are most appropriate. Retention is hard, as well, as some participants leave to study or seek higher pay. However, Cenfrocafe continues to support the importance of youth involvement and clearly sees a bright future for them within the cooperative.
 
Counter Culture was pleased to be a small part of this worthwhile initiative that clearly earns its own dividends in terms of impact both on producers and at the co-op level.
 
Saludos,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
Quality Relationships in Coffee & Tea
Coffee Buyer and Sustainability Manager Kim Elena Ioenscu and Coffee Buyer's Agent Hannah Popish just returned from a week in Northern Peru with Cenfrocafe, our cooperative partners who bring us Valle de Santuario and La Frontera coffees. The visit included the usual community meetings and talks with agronomists and cooperative leadership, but Kim Elena and Hannah were also there to celebrate the cooperative's 13th anniversary!
 
 
Thanks,
Nathan

Hello again!

So, Kim and I just returned from a week in Northern Peru with Cenfrocafe, our cooperative partners who bring us Valle de Santuario and La Frontera coffees. Though this visit included the usual community meetings and talks with agronomists and cooperative leadership, we were also there for a unique reason – celebrating the cooperative's 13th anniversary! So, the end of the week found us inaugurating a new storage center for the cooperative's coffee and dancing to some live cumbia music.

The nerd in me was overjoyed to see a work flow chart (pictured above) on the wall of the community center when we arrived for the meeting earlier in the week.

As you can faintly make out, taped below the plan they also have a printed biography of Valle del Santuario and a letter Kim sent in 2008 telling them what we particularly appreciated about their coffee. The subtitles on the chart read: type of work, what needs to be done, what is the goal, by when, with whom, and how much will it cost?" Topics of interest included maintaining quality coffee, strengthening the primary cooperative, and making home repairs for quality of life improvements.

It appears that it is, at least in part, organization and inspiration like this – naming the needs and making a work plan – that fuels the staying power of the cooperative. We were overjoyed to join in their celebration, and hope you'll enjoy some more notes about this trip.

Abrazos,
Hannah
Good works, good cheer, and great coffee. Our 2012 Holiday Blend!
Each year at holiday time, we create a special, limited-edition coffee dedicated to celebration and good cheer, made especially for holiday mornings and special occasions. We then donate a dollar per pound sold to a special charitable project in the place the coffee was grown, completing the cycle of good works, good cheer, and great coffee. This year, we're using coffees crafted especially for us in Southern Ethiopia and dedicating proceeds to educational projects there.
 
The blend for 2012 honors Ethiopia's coffee history and diversity of flavors, as well as the third year of our relationship with the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmer Cooperative Union (YCFCU) in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, by featuring coffee from multiple member communities from within this large co-op.
 
Donations from our 2012 Holiday Blend will fund a two-day workshop for agronomists, technicians, washing station managers, and growers from YCFCU – and other cooperatives in the region – on organic compost and good agricultural practices, as well as supporting a pilot worm compost project in one of the member communities that can be replicated in others.
 
Saludos,
Kim Elena
Preparing coffee seedlings in Ecuador.
In early 2008, as I compiled data for Counter Culture's first Sustainability Scorecard, I remember wondering whether the information would be interesting to anyone besides me. Some of the metrics in that first report, like the percentage of certified organic coffee we purchase, have continued to grow in relevance, whereas other metrics, like the percentage of delivery fuel replaced by biodiesel, have become obsolete.
 
In spite of metrics that have not stood the test of time, the act of measuring our progress and reporting on it publicly has become more and more integral to who we are as a company and how we define sustainability. We have eliminated a few categories from the Scorecard over the years – in some cases because we have refocused our energy away from an area, and, in others, because we have achieved our target of 100 percent enough times to make continued reporting moot – but for the most part we have added to the Scorecard as we have formalized goals and grown our partnerships and projects.
 
Five years later, I hope that our Sustainability Scorecard has proven to be interesting, and I look forward to its continuing evolution as we learn, focus and grow.
 
Saludos,
Kim Elena
Preparing coffee seedlings in Ecuador.
This was Kim's second trip to Ecuador, and my first visit to the cooperative that brings us the coffee El Gavilán. After arriving in balmy, coastal Guayaquil on a Monday, we made the trek to the cool and mountainous Loja in the south. With Loja as our home base, we then visited producer communities in Quilanga and Palanda.
 
On this visit, we had the opportunity to spend time with two farmer cooperatives that our partner Fapecafes (the exporting cooperative) supports – Procafeq and Apecap. I also had the chance to travel for a second time with the incredibly knowledgeable Alejandro Cadena who works for our export partner Virmax. Together we visited farms, attended a cooperative meeting, spent some time in Fapecafes' main cupping lab, and spent a day cupping with Apecap's cuppers to calibrate on 37 coffees for an internal competition celebrating the co-ops farmers.
 
Last year, we offered El Gavilán for the first time, and were pleased with their high yields and high cup quality. This harvest year was a tough one for Fapecafes for multiple reasons. Coffee plants were particularly hard hit by the rust disease, or "roya," that became so prevalent in Colombia in years past. This upset led to reduced yields, impacted cup quality, and decreased prices – all challenging news for farmers.
 
However, after a week with their members we feel confident that, because of their level of organization and initiative, there will be more good years to come. In the photo included above, Elfredín's family in Palanda is preparing bags for coffee seedlings – an apt metaphor for our growing relationship with Fapecafes in Ecuador.
 
We hope you enjoy these photos and stories!
 
Un abrazo,
Hannah
Coffee Buyer's Agent
This Single-Origin Espresso from the Thiriku Cooperative in Nyeri, Kenya, makes for a deliciously sweet, tart ristretto.
Like most of the producers in Nyeri, Kenya, the producers of the Thiriku Farmers Cooperative are very small, averaging only a few hundred coffee trees on their land. Alongside coffee, producer grow other food crops that are primarily used to feed their families. Over the 3 past years, we bought coffee from Thiriku through the Kenyan auction system and through Kenya's "second window" market, which allows producers to sell outside the auction.
 
This year, our coffee from Thiriku was bought outside the auction, as was all of our coffee from Kenya. And, we were also able to establish a better dialogue with the cooperative chair, Erastus Mathenge, and the cooperative set aside specific lots for Counter Culture from what they felt was their best.
 
In this single-origin espresso from Thiriku, chocolate, cherry, and pomegranate combine for a sweet and tart ristretto with a pleasant cherry-cola finish.
 
Thanks,
Nathan
POSTED IN: coffee