Community Caravan

Written by Cafe Campesino on Jul 1, 2008 in Community Caravan, NEWSLETTER |
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Members of Cafe Campesino Delegation with the Members of ACOES in Tacuba, El Salvador

While Tripp was heading south for his group’s rendezvous with our friends at ACOES in El Salvador (read highlights below), Café Campesino’s assistant manager, Rebecca Young, and our new coffee house manager, Joe Johnston, were laboring away to put the final touches on Americus’ newest coffee (fair trade, organic of course) venue here at 725 Spring Street! In the past ten days or so this dynamic duo has transformed what were once our kitchen and packing room into a truly beautiful café poised to receive coffee lovers and folks seeking a bona fide “third place” in this little Southwest Georgia town. Joe plans on continuing with the soft-opening of the coffee house this month – which means we’re open for business folks – and holding our grand opening on Saturday August 9th. Stay tuned for a formal announcement of our grand opening in the next couple of weeks! In the meantime, come on down – we’re open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm and Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm… we plan on expanding hours as well as hosting fun evening and weekend events as the summer progresses!

Café Campesino’s coffee service at this year’s Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) was, once again, an energizing success! We heartily thank Geoffrey, Scott, John Henry and everyone else who made this year’s trek from Oxford to St Simons Island such a fun, memorable experience for all… we look forward to doing it again next year!

For the fourth year in a row Geoffrey served up Café Campesino at this year’s Paddle Georgia. By all reports, an excellent time was had by all! We look forward to next year’s Paddle Georgia and strongly recommend that anyone who didn’t make it this year sign up for Paddle Georgia 2009! For more information, visit: http://www.garivers.org/paddlegeorgia/pghome.html

On Monday, June 16th, just a week before traveling down to Central America, Tripp made a quick trip (catchy eh) up to our Forsyth-based customer Jonah’s on Johnston where he talked fair trade, organic coffee with the top notch staff there. Besides serving up Café Campesino as it is meant to be served, this brick oven bistro and bakery is quickly becoming the talk of the region for its fantastic baked goods and its traditional Neapolitan style pizzas which are truly out of this world. We recommend that anyone traveling down 75 in the vicinity of Forsyth, Georgia make a detour to check this place out… it’s most definitely worth the while. For more information visit www.jonahsbistro.com

Trip Report Preview: ACOES… the real thing! By Tripp Pomeroy, Café Campesino

My intention was to post blog entries during our recent journey to El Salvador where we visited with Cooperative Coffees’ newest trading partner ACOES but our busy agenda and minimal access to the internet kept me from doing so which, ultimately, turned out to be a great thing. Why? Because it gave me the opportunity to spend quality, 100% focused, time with my five compadres from the United States (Kristin Russell and Brad Baugh from the Sentient Bean in Savannah; Simone Blanchard of CRS in Atlanta; and Jeff Gibbs and Chris Durai from fellow Coop Coffees member Bongo Java in Nashville, Tennessee) and our phenomenal hosts Oscar Ortiz of ASINDEC/ACOES and the core members of ACOES from the communities of La Concordia and El Sincuyo. Even though our visit was brief (Thursday through Sunday), the experience was rich and unforgettable, opening (I think) everyone’s eyes to both the opportunities and responsibilities that come with a direct, Fair Trade relationship such as this new one between Café Campesino and ACOES.

In the next issues of Fair Grounds I will write more in-depth about our recent experience traveling in El Salvador and surrounds, but for this newsletter I’ll mention just a few highlights of our journey…

Thursday – We were met by ACOES’ technical advisor, advocate and loyal supporter Oscar Ortiz just inside the border of El Salvador, after we had traveled there by van from Guatemala City that morning. Oscar drove us to Tacuba where we would stay at the office of ASINDEC over the next three days. Our first event upon arrival: meeting about a dozen young folks (mostly children of ACOES’ members) who visit the center each week to learn computer and other administrative skills from Oscar. What an impressive group of young people… the future of ACOES… right there, learning how to carry on the work of building and strengthening their parents’ cooperative.

After meeting with the youth group, Oscar and crew drove us up to a coffee farm recently bought by Nina Tancho, the beaming ray of sunshine who welcomed us to Tacuba, fed us, and made our stay at the ASINDEC office so pleasant. Nina Tancho is considering becoming a member of ACOES, which would be good not only for her and the coop, but also for Tacuba because her land lies at the head of one of the town’s main mountain water sources. Our visit to her farm provided a few members of our delegation with their first chance to climb through true coffee terrain. In fact, a fair number of people think coffee is grown in kind of flat, easy-to-navigate plots… but the reality is quite the opposite. Virtually all of the world’s coffee is grown on steep, treacherous mountain slopes, which this first hike so nicely demonstrated. Oscar, Don Santos, Roberto (Nina Tancho’s son) and Marvin (the son of ACOES’ president Don Rogelio, who you’ll read about below) led our small group up almost vertical slopes, weaving around tree roots, digging in to negotiate muddy, slippery inclines, and grabbing anything that looked well-rooted to get us up to the top of the Joya de Mashtapula – a mountain peak from which our delegation was first able to 1) see out and across vast expanses of El Salvador while almost touching the clouds and 2) begin to appreciate how brutally hard it is to farm coffee.

ACOES President Don Rogelio and members of the Cafe Campesino Delegation in front of The Tree

Friday – First thing in the morning we sat down with Don Rogelio, one of the founding members of La Concordia and the current president of ACOES. For about an hour we sat transfixed, listening to Don Rogelio recount how he and a core group of the community’s founding members stood up to a Colonel who owned much of the land on which they live. The Colonel threatened violence, physically intimidated, and bullied the young men of what would become La Concordia… his aim: to prevent them from organizing themselves, taking control (and responsibility) for their livelihoods, and exercising their legal rights (under one of the nation’s first agrarian reform measures, Law 207) to the land they had been working for so many years. Don Rogelio’s recounting of his experience took an emotional turn for all of us when he described the day in the early 1980s that the Colonel brought some of his troops to La Concordia, surrounding Don Rogelio and the other founding members. In the center of the community where this meeting place was (and remains) stood (and stands) a tree. With the Colonel’s troops leveling weapons at Don Rogelio and the other coop members, the Colonel summoned Don Rogelio and his brother… their hands were bound tightly together and they were led to the tree, where the Colonel threatened at gunpoint to kill them if they did not quit the land. The ropes were tied in such a way that their thumbs were drawn together to cause excruciating pain. Don Rogelio recounted how he and his brother were willing to give their lives… neither was willing to acquiesce to the Colonel. Despite the Colonel’s tortuous intimidation, demeaning verbal abuse and bullying threats, Don Rogelio and his brother survived that day and ultimately worked with their fellow founding members to buy their land from the Colonel and found La Concordia… such are the roots of ACOES.

Stay tuned for more about our visit to ACOES and our one-day jet through Honduras that followed in the Café Campesino blog.

On Tuesday July 22nd, Tripp will travel up to Oglethorpe University in Atlanta to talk Fair Trade and sample Café Campesino at The Summer Action Institute. This national event is held every Summer for a week in different parts of the country… Atlanta is this year’s host. The Summer Action Institute is organized by the Round Table, a national association for Catholic Social Ministry/Peace and Justice professionals and is sponsored by CRS and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

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