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Producer Gathering in Honduras

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Anne Costello, Director of Coffee

January is a time of new beginnings and resolutions for a better future. My recent trip to Honduras offered a little of both. The purpose of the trip was to participate in an event hosted by the Comsa Cooperative for producers and roasters to share information and learn best practices for combating coffee leaf rust. Coffee rust or “roya” is a disease that's spreading across coffee lands and affecting yield and quality across Central and South America.  Representatives of many of our producer partners were in attendance, including members from Apecaform, Chajulense, Sol y Cafe, Cenfrocafe, Pangoa, and Fondo Paez.

This summit is just one way we're working to combat this disease that's impacting farmers' livelihoods. Since August, all of Cooperative Coffees' member-roasters have paid an additional 5 cents/pound for coffees from rust-affected co-ops to be put into a fund dedicated to rust management. These funds are divided up based on the volume purchased by Cooperative Coffees.  Producer cooperatives can apply for funds to use for projects, or they could use the funds to help pay for costs to attend this event. This fund and this event, although small compared to the scope of the problem, are unique in the industry. Activities like this make me proud to work at Peace Coffee and proud to be a part of Cooperative Coffees.

The event was held in Marcala, Honduras and our hosts were the very inspiring Comsa Cooperative. Comsa has approximately 800 members, and they are incredibly innovative and creative. They are deeply committed to both organic and biodynamic practices, and they were excited to show how their hard work and creativity has helped to stave off coffee leaf rust on their farms. They also have incredibly active youth in the organization, who showed us how to create microorganisms that can be used for organic soil and leaf treatments, and a women's group that started a weekly organic produce market. Comsa is a new partner for us, and we look forward to roasting their coffee for the first time when the harvest reaches us this summer.

You may remember Oscar Omar Alonzo from stories of my travels last year.  His farm "Cual Bicicleta" looks better than ever and his infectious enthusiasm spread to all of the members of the group.  He gave us a tour of his farm and hosted us for dinner, and showed us his new bicycle!

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