Birding and Coffee: A Travelogue(ito) from February 2014

Written by nema on March 21, 2014 in POSTS FROM THE FIELD
A coffee seedling with Roya.   Photo taken in Chel, Guatemala, February 2014, by Phil Hardy.

A coffee seedling with Roya. Photo taken in Chel, Guatemala, February 2014, by Phil Hardy.

Cafe Campesino launched its first Birding and Coffee Tour of Guatemala in February 2014, visiting three regions in nine days, including Chajul (and its environs) in the Guatemalan Highlands where we source coffee.  We logged more than 100 species of birds on the trip, visiting Antigua, near Guatemala City,  Chajul, in the Quiche department, and St. Lucas Toliman, located on the southwestern shores of Lake Atitlan.  We also got first-hand accounts of the 2013-2014 harvest from coffee farmer members of the Asociacion Chajulense who are desperately battling the spread of Roya.

No Hay Cafe

A crippling orange, powdery fungus that withers the leaves of the trees it infects, Roya, also known as coffee rust, keeps leaves from performing photosynthesis- that vital plant function that converts sunlight into energy  (learn more about Roya here).  Without its necessary fuel, coffee trees are unable to produce cherries, and harvests decline.  The Chajul cooperative alone expects a 50 percent drop from its 2012-2013 harvest season where it produced some 29 containers (or 1.1 million pounds) of green coffee.  This is especially devastating when many of Chajul’s 1,406 members rely on sales of green coffee as a primary source of income to buy food.

Helping its farmer members combat Roya is the Chajul cooperative’s greatest challenge right now.   On one of the three days we were in Chajul,  the cooperative distributed to its members organic fungicide mixes and seeds from trees that had  successfully resisted Roya in an effort to help members clean out the fungus from existing crops and plant stronger strains of trees to start anew.  But new trees take up to 3 years to produce.  And many farmers live in villages where not all of their neighbors are members of the Chajul cooperative and

Chajul co-op leadership: Arcadio Daniel, Miguel Tzoy and Asociacion Chajulense's cupper at the Chajul co-op's warehouse & beneficio in Chajul, Guatemala, February, 2014.

Chajul co-op leadership: Arcadio Daniel, Miguel Tzoy and Asociacion Chajulense’s cupper at the co-op’s warehouse and beneficio in Chajul, Guatemala, February, 2014.

are not as committed to combating Roya as they are.

Many farmers throughout Guatemala, in fact, have abandoned their Roya-plagued coffee trees.  They have reasoned that administering multiple applications of fungicide, in addition to the regularly cleaning and maintaining their coffee trees, is not worth their time.   So, in many parts of Guatemala, Roya lives-on unchecked (and presumably spreads).  Government assistance to curb Roya is virtually nil for small-scale farmers, according to many of the people we talked to along the trip, who explained that much of the state-led Roya assistance efforts were tailored to large coffee farms that do not farm organically.

“No hay cafe” (There is no coffee), said farmers in Chel, a village about a 2-hour drive north of Chajul.  While there was some production in Chel, many of those farmers no doubt have fresh in their minds the 2011 coffee harvest when the co-op produced more than 48 containers  (or 1.8 million pounds) of green coffee during one of the highest market prices in history.  A high market price, combined with a high yield made 2011 a wonderful year for coffee farmers.  This year is dramatically different.


Chajul farmers receive ingredients for an organic fungicide and new seeds  to help fight Roya. February 2014.

Chajul farmers receive ingredients for an organic fungicide and new seeds to help fight Roya. February 2014.

In a region that still wears the scars of harrowing human rights violations (the legal office of the Chajul co-op has helped locate mass graves  in its region since the Peace Accords that ended a 36-year-long Civil War were signed in 1996), in a country that still struggles to bring war criminals to justice, it’s hard to understand how farmers can remain hopeful in the face of Roya.  “There’s nothing else to do,” one farmer told us, saying that remaining hopeful and working his coffee plants was all he could do.

Entities like Cooperative Coffees, who in January organized a best practice-sharing session among coffee farmers battling Roya, help bring, at the very least, solidarity and support to farmers like those in Chajul. Cooperative Coffees also initiated a Roya Relief Fund in the summer of 2013 that sends emergency monies to producer partners to help fund the costs of re-planting trees, purchasing and applying organic fertilizer, developing food security garden projects or other initiatives that may generate additional income for farmer families.

Textiles from Chajul Women’s Cooperative


Hand-woven wallets created by the Women’s Weaving Cooperative of Chajul.

In an effort to get more money into the Chajul area, Cafe Campesino is purchasing hand-woven textiles from a women’s cooperative that was born out of Asociacion Chajulense and still shares office space with the coffee exporting cooperative.  “Unidas por la Vida” (United for Life) is the motto of the Asociacion Chajulense de Mujeres (the Chajul Women’s Association), which is made up of about 50 indigenous Mayan Ixil women who weave using back-strap looms and foot-looms.  They make purses, cosmetic bags, wallets, I-pad cases, pillow covers and more, and Cafe Campesino will carry some of these products  beginning in the spring of 2014.

making a wallet in Chajul

A member of the the Chajul Women’s Cooperative is using a back-strap loom to create wallets that will soon be sold at Cafe Campesino.

The women’s cooperative provides artisans with designs as well as prepared thread with which to work.  Most women work from their homes, generating additional income while still tending to the needs of their children and families.  In addition to providing jobs for women in the Chajul area, the women’s co-op also administers a micro-credit fund from which it will loan 2,400 quetzales (or about $300) to an individual woman.  The loans are generally repaid within one year, can be used for whatever the loan recipient needs, and are monitored and administered at the local-level by small groups of women who make sure that the loan gets repaid.  Since starting the fund in 2007, the co-op has never had a woman default on her loan, and the number of loan recipients has increased from 19 in 2007 to 800 in 2013.

Look for freshly designed, newly woven (the women were working on our order while we were there in February) collection of textiles at Cafe Campesino soon!!!

Birds, Birds, more Birds

And if direct visits with coffee producers and artisans weren’t enough for our intrepid group of travelers, bus rides through cloud forests, chocolate tastings at Fernando’s Cafe in Antigua, sunsets on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and sightings of more than 100 species of birds (some of which were very rare) were all on the agenda, too.  


The rare Northern Potoo seen in Guatemala.  When it sleeps, it looks like a tree limb.

The rare Northern Potoo seen in Guatemala through a telescope lens. A night hunter, it looks like a tree limb when it sleeps during the day.

Our birding outings were led by our old-friend and veteran Habitat for Humanity volunteer Clive Rainey (who not long ago traded-in an Americus, Ga.-based home for Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, home).  Clive took us to some beautiful, tranquil and amazing sites- lush with vegetation and active with bird-life.  Among the species of birds that we saw were the White-bellied Chachalaca, the Groove-billed Ani, the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, the Northern Potoo, the Black Swift, the Turquoise-browed Motmot (the national bird of El Salvador, btw…), the Yellow-Throated Vireo, the Yellow-naped Parrot, the Painted Bunting, the Yellow-billed Cacique, the Azure-crowned Hummingbird and SO MANY MORE!   Clive and a small contingent continued birding after the Cafe Campesino trip had ended, seeing ultimately, the Resplendent Quetzal.

And so, with our first Birding and Coffee trip to Guatemala under our belts, we are poised to return with a new group!   New for next year’s agenda?  An overnight in Guatemala City at the Quetzalroo Hostel, where our group will hopefully get Marcos’s famed walking tour of the city.  AND-  iced coffee served from hand-blown martini glasses at El Injerto coffee shop in Guatemala City.  Both were pre-trip highlights of this trip leader.

So.. JOIN US in our travels!  We’re going to Peru in July and Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala in the fall.   Look for another Birding and Coffee trip in December 2014 or early 2015.

Let us know if you want to go and email us your destination preference at travel@cafecampesino.com.



Clive Rainey, cat-lover, Fernando's Kaffee frequenter, Habitat volunteer and all around fantastic BIRD Guide.  Thank you, Clive!

Clive Rainey, cat-lover, Fernando’s Kaffee frequenter, Habitat volunteer and all around fantastic BIRD Guide. Thank you, Clive!



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TDF13 Spotlight: Richland Rum

Written by nema on October 20, 2013 in BLOG, Cafe Campesino


Richland Distilling Company is located in Richland, GA. The owners Erik and Karin Vonk and master distiller Jay McCain are helping put Richland on the map by making authentic, quality products. Garden and Gun calls Richland Rum “the smooth amber liquid that had brought new life to this town.” (Find the whole article here.) It is a family-owned business and makes Richland Rum exclusively.

Richland Distilling Company will be one of our stops on Saturday, Nov. 9 during the Southwest GA Tour de Farm 2013 bike ride. We will get the opportunity to taste Richland Rum and to take a tour. Tickets for Tour de Farm are on sale now! Register today to ensure your spot in the ride.

Richland Rum is made by hand and is done so day-by-day all in one area. They grow their own cane sugar at Vennebroek Estate there in Richland and distill, age, and bottle their Rum all in the same place. The process of making their Rum involves fermenting, distilling, and aging in oak barrels, where it is matured for at least one year with some longer.

Richland Rum only contains two ingredients! Those ingredients are either sugar cane juice or premium sugar cane syrup and water. This means that it is all natural and contains no preservatives, artificial aromas, coloring, additives, or chemical enhancements. The fermentation recipe used to make Richland Rum also plays an important role in contributing to the all natural taste of the quality Rum.

To learn more about Richland Distilling Company and Richland Rum, check out these articles:

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution April 2, 2013

From Southern View Magazine

Also, check out this YouTube video about Richland Rum.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out Richland Rum’s website.


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TDF13 Spotlight: White Oak Pastures

Written by Cafe Campesino on September 29, 2013 in BLOG, Cafe Campesino

white oak

We believe White Oak Pastures is a gem in Southwest Georgia, and we are so thrilled to have them featured on this year’s Southwest Georgia Tour de Farm. Primarily a livestock farm and processing facility, White Oak stands out nationally for its sustainable farming practices and commitment to land stewardship, animal husbandry and organics. Plus, the folks who work there are just so darn innovative, creative and committed to doing the right thing for their community, the land they live on and the animals that feed them.

We promise a fantastic tour and exceptional supper on Friday, Nov. 8, where the food will literally be born, raised, processed, prepared and consumed on-site. (Thank you so much, White Oak!)

Supper-only tickets are available for $30 online at http://tdf2013.eventbrite.com/. or at Cafe Campesino Coffee House and Roastery in Americus. Full event tickets include the Meat & Greet Supper, as well as two days of food-and-farm-oriented cycling in Southwest Georgia. The entire event is a fundraiser for non-profits Georgia Organics and Sumter Cycling. Learn more about Tour de Farm and purchase tickets online. Read more about White Oak below!

Just why is White Oak Pastures so cool? Here’s some stuff that stands out for us:

-Forty percent of the energy needs of White Oak’s on-site processing facilities COMES FROM THE SUN! (yeah, there’s a big solar panel on that farm)

-White Oak makes bio-diesel on-site to power its farm tractors

-On-site commercial meat processing hardly ever happens on farms. In fact, only 2 farms do this in the U.S. White Oak Pastures is one of them.

-Nothing goes to waste- blood, bones and viscera are all broken down to make compost.

-In 2011, White Oak complemented its red-meat processing facility by opening up a USDA-inspected poultry abattoir and now raise and slaughter chicken, ducks, geese, guineas, and turkeys on-site.

-There’s a certified organic vegetable farm that produces food for CSA customers across Southwest Georgia.

Still Curious? Keep reading at some of the links below:

From The Local Palate in June, July 2013

From Modern Farmer Fall 2013

From the Atlanta Magazine in February 2011

Check out their website to find out even more great things about White Oak Pastures.

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Guatemala February 2014: Sign-Up Now

Written by Cafe Campesino on September 10, 2013 in BLOG, Cafe Campesino

We invite you to join Café Campesino and our sister company Sweetwater Organic Coffee, along with local birding enthusiasts for a ten day trip to Guatemala from Feb 7 to Feb 16, 2014. Our Coffee and Culture Tours focus on understanding coffee production in the countries where coffee is grown. We introduce participants to more than just how coffee is produced, but also to the positive impact that fair trade and organics bring to small scale farmers and their family economic development. As we meet farmers and their families, we understand customs, culture, geography, economics, language and family life in the country visited.

Guatemala is a delight for birders. As we travel to the places where shade grown coffee is produced, and even to the market cities where coffee beans are processed, travelers are in the midst of a range of micro climates that support a wide variety of bird habitat. Our balanced itinerary allows us time to focus very specifically on coffee on certain days and birds on other days. At certain times we may incorporate both in a day’s activity. We may also find certain days when the birders hike in one direction while the coffee hounds head in another. Some of the birds that we are likely to encounter are unique to Guatemala while others are migratory birds that you may see in North America in a certain season and in Guatemala in the colder temps of a North American winter. The value of shade grown crops, a rainforest canopy and organic methods are a boon to the health of all birds and this will be demonstrated.

Please join us. The dates are February 7th to 16th and you may choose to extend for other birding, language school, or other Guatemala tourism. Extending is at your own separate expense. The cost is $75 per day plus your air ticket and travel insurance. So the ten day trip is $750 plus airfare (which you will coordinate on your own). This includes in-country transportation, meals, snacks and water each day, and accommodations (based on shared rooms). Single supplements will not always be available and will have an added cost.

Interested in Registering? Call us or email.

Call: 888-532-4728
Email: nema@cafecampesino.com


Cafe Campesino receives “Rock Star” Accolades from State Econ Dev.Groups

Written by nema on August 22, 2013 in BLOG, Cafe Campesino

RockStar Award

AMERICUS (August 22, 2013) – Café Campesino is one of six companies that was recognized as a “Small Business Rock Star” in Atlanta on Monday by the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) and the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). Nearly 50 companies competed for the title, which lauded outstanding, unique and impactful small businesses in the state of Georgia.

“It’s important to honor companies whose best practices help set the state apart as a nurturing environment for small business,” said Mike Pennington, president of GEDA, which collaborated with the GDEcD to host this first-time event that highlighted innovative entreprenuers across the state.
“Entrepreneurs find where there’s a need and work to fill that need,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who spoke at the Aug. 19 luncheon at the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel that honored the winners.

A local need for sustainably sourced, high quality, organic coffee prompted Bill Harris to start Café Campesino in 1998. Mr. Harris accepted the award for Café Campesino on Monday and highlighted its work to honor small farmers “who work harder than any of us here” as the driving force behind his business. He also noted that the company’s simple business philosophy – to “treat others as you would like to be treated” was at that heart of everything Café Campesino does.

“We are a company that measures its success based on its relationship with the three P’s– profits, people and the planet,” Mr. Harris said to the more than 100 public officials and econonomic developers attending the luncheon, who included newly appointed Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Corbin, as well as Lt. Gov. Cagle.

Deeply committed to developing small business in the Americus and Sumter County region, Mr. Harris expressed his gratitude to the state and local entities that have provided Cafe Campesino with support along the way. He cited the Department of Community Affairs, the Americus-Sumter Co. Chamber of Commerce, the Americus Sumter Payroll Development Authority, South Georgia Technical College, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the City of Americus as being strong supporters of Café Campesino.

Café Campesino also underscored the importance of these entities and the tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurship it sees in small towns across Georgia during the Aug. 14-16 Georgia Downtown Association conference it attended in Savannah where it served on a panel that highlighted craft industry and agritourism in Georgia downtowns. Pladd Dott, a Statesboro-based music company and guitar manufacturer and the Savannah Bee Co., a retailer and wholesaler of sustainably sourced honey and skin-care products, were also on the GDA craft industry panel.

Other “Small Business RockStars” winners included Laurie Jo’s Southern Style Canning, located near Moultrie; FactoryMation of Canton; Azalea Health of Valdosta; Restaurant Interiors of Jasper and Atlanta Light Bulbs of Tucker.

Nema Etheridge of Café Campesino, Angela Westra, director of chamber development, Americus Sumter County Chamber of Commerce and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Harris Sr. accompanied Mr. Harris to the award luncheon.

Small Business RockStars is a collaboration between GEDA and the GDEcD to recognize outstanding, unique and impactful businesses with fewer than 50 employees across the state.

About Café Campesino
Cafe Campesino is a fair trade, organic coffee company that is based in Americus, Georgia. It was founded in 1998 after Americus resident Bill Harris traveled to Guatemala with Habitat for Humanity. Today, Café Campesino sources coffee from small-scale farmer living in more than 10 countries around the world and sells freshly roasted coffee to customers across Georgia and the United States. It is headquartered in Americus where it operates a roasting facility and coffee shop. www.cafecampesino.com

About GEDA
Celebrating 50 years of service excellence, the Georgia Economic Developers Association is the leading professional organization advancing Georgia’s economic vitality. GEDA is a non-profit association of professionals, volunteers and supporters. The association provides networking and professional development opportunities for its members, and supports public policies that promote quality job creation and sustainable economic development throughout the state. For more information, visit www.geda.org.

About GDEcD
The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) plans, manages and mobilizes state resources to attract new business investment to Georgia, drive the expansion of existing industry and small business, locate new markets for Georgia products, inspire tourists to visit Georgia, and promote the state as a top destination for arts events and film, music and digital entertainment projects. Visit www.georgia.org.

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SAVE THE DATE: Tour de Farm Southwest Georgia: Nov. 8-10, 2013

Written by nema on April 30, 2013 in BLOG, Cafe Campesino

save the date


Join us for another weekend of cycling through beautiful Southwest Georgia!

This year we will return to Koinonia Farm and spend an evening at White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Ga.

This is a NOT TO BE MISSED event for food-lovers, organics enthusiasts and people who like exploring the world on bikes.

Check our Facebook page this summer for ticket information.

See pics from last year to convince you that you want to attend this year’s ride 😉


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4/30/13: Film Screening + Garden Launch in Americus

Written by nema on April 24, 2013 in BLOG, Cafe Campesino


chris and jenny

Chris and Jenny Jackson of Jenny-Jack Sun Farm in Pine Mountain, Ga., that is featured in the documentary, “GROW!” that is screening at Cafe Campesino in Americus, Ga., on April 30. Photo Credit: Anthony-Masterson.


AMERICUS, Ga.- Café Campesino joins a series of locations around the world screening the critically acclaimed documentary, “GROW!” that showcases the work and enthusiasm of 20 young farmers across Georgia who are energizing the local food movement.  Film-makers Owen Masterson and Christine Anthony will be on-site for the Tuesday, April 30th screening in Americus that will take place in Café Campesino’s newly established community garden- the first of its kind in Sumter County.

The public is encouraged to attend this free event and bring a picnic, blankets and a general curiosity about community gardens, organics and Georgia’s local food movement.  Garden gates open at 6:30 p.m. Mingling and information-sharing begins at 7 p.m. and an outdoor screening of “GROW!” will begin at sunset, about 8:15 p.m.

A 60 minute documentary, “GROW!” shares the stories of young people across Georgia who have chosen the unlikely but energizing career paths of becoming small-scale farmers.  “GROW!” highlights young farmers living in Atlanta, Blairsville, Chattahoochee Hill Country, Mansfield, Ranger, Savannah, Winterville, Pine Mountain and other locations across the state.  Released in 2011, “GROW!” has received worldwide critical acclaim including 2011 Best American Documentary at the Rome International Film Festival, 2011 Official Selection at the Savannah Film Festival, 2012 Best Feature at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, 2012 Official Selection at the Reel Earth Environmental Film Festival of New Zealand and the 2013 Earth Award of the Cinema Verde Film Festival.

The film screening will be the first held in Café Campesino’s newly established Community Garden that offers 14 raised-bed plots to individuals in Americus who either do not have access to land or sunlight to grow their own food.  Though still in its nascent stages, the Café Campesino Community Garden is meant to be a gathering spot for gardeners of all skill-levels and backgrounds who are eager to learn more about organic farming and local food.    During Tuesday’s 7-8 p.m. information-sharing hour, local experts on composting, beekeeping, organic gardening, chickens and heritage-breed livestock will be in attendance to answer questions, promote discussion and share their knowledge with the general public.

Join us at 725 Spring Street in Americus, Georgia, on Tuesday, April 30, or call with questions in advance: 229-924-2468.  Watch the trailer or learn about “GROW!” at growmovie.net

CONTACT: Nema Etheridge
Work: 229-924-2468
Cell: 404-558-6221

raised bed

A group from Emory University’s alternative spring break program visited Cafe Campesino in Americus in March to help build raised beds for the Community Garden. The Cafe Campesino Community Garden is the first of its kind in Sumter County, Ga., and currently offers 14 raised beds to local residents.



Understanding Roya: The Coffee Rust

Written by nema on March 19, 2013 in Article, BLOG, Cafe Campesino, Sustainability
A coffee leaf affected by the "coffee rust fungus" or Roya.  Photo by Scott Umstattd.

A coffee leaf affected by the “coffee rust fungus” or Roya. Photo by Scott Umstattd.

Roya- or coffee “rust”- is an orange fungus that grows on the leaves of coffee plants, causing them to whither and fall off.  It reduces coffee production and eventually causes plants to die, and it is quickly spreading through Central America.  We witnessed the effects of roya during our trip to Guatemala in January, and shortly after our return, the Guatemalan government issued a national coffee emergency, anticipating some 70 percent of its 2013 coffee harvest to be affected by the fungus.  Bill, who on the trip visited the same small-scale farm of Chel-based Pedro Pacheco Bop that he visited in 2011, saw a drastic change.  “I was shocked.  It was not the lush green coffee forest that we saw 2 years ago.  His farm was noticeably different.”  Roya has affected other coffee growing regions in the past, most notably devastating coffee crops of the British Ceylon (or modern-day Sri Lanka) in the 1800s, and later affecting coffee crops in Indonesia and Brazil and some areas of Central America and the Caribbean as recent as 30-40 years ago.  Scientists remain undecided on what is causing the outbreak.  An increasingly changing climate- where longer periods of wet and warmer temperatures are reaching high-altitude coffeelands- is one culprit.  But John Vandermeer, a scientist at the University of Michigan, believes that an ecosystem damaged by the excessive use of pesticides and fungicides is to blame.  For example, a white halo fungus, which has helped to keep coffee rust in-check, has been nearly eradicated through chemical applications in Central America that have also killed off the insects that help germinate it.  Coffee industry professionals throughout Central America are looking to get the fungus under control, and small-scale farmers like Pacheco Bop will turn to his cooperative, the Asociacion Chajulense, for expertise and technical help on how to deal with roya.  Bill sees this as a critically important role that the cooperative plays.   “The coop has technical advisers on staff who are working on this right now,” he said.  “And this is an example of another moment where being a part of a larger organization and working together and collaborating is the best way for the farmer to get through this,” he said.  The effects of a diminished harvest will be especially bitter for the coffee farmer this year, as the price of coffee has dropped from last year’s near 15-year high.  “They’re not getting nearly the amount of supply, so they’re getting affected by the negative trend of production and the negative trend of pricing,” he said.  “Just when it looks like it is getting good, then watch out… such is the life of the farmer.”   Café Campesino will continue to be committed to learning more about roya and responding to the needs of the cooperatives at origin.  “The best thing we can do is support whatever decisions they make,” said Bill.

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