Specialty Coffee Association of America Annual Conference

Written by Cafe Campesino on May 1, 2002 in NEWSLETTER, Trips |
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Trade shows. The old “How are you doing?” “Good to see you!” “Can’t believe it’s been a year…” Spontaneous meetings — in the hall, the aisle, at breakfast, during break, even in the bathroom. Shiny happy booths geared to “sell, sell, sell!”

To say I wasn’t looking forward to the long flight to Anaheim, California, is an major understatement. The perfect plastic city that’s home to Goofy has never been a desirable destination for me. In fact, I was actually questioning the value of attending a trade show that seems to attract every frozen mocha mix and artificial flavored syrup vendor in the world — two product areas in which we don’t care to develop expertise. But as the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Annual Conference approached, I realized that quite a few coffee folks that I have known now for several years would be attending. More importantly, I realized that they are no longer just business acquaintances — they’ve become friends.

When we first attended this trade show in 1998, we were looking for contacts, leads, sales and advice from anyone who would share a few moments of their time and listen to our Fair Trade message. But it became quite clear to me that this year’s show was different. Instead of constantly pitching, I was listening. Listening to producers describe the devastation in their communities as a result of coffee prices having reached their lowest level in 100 years. Listening to our fair trade farmer partners describe how incredibly important our willingness to pay fair trade prices is to their economic survival. Listening to coffee roasters — who in past years ignored and even ridiculed our efforts to pay farmers a living wage — asking how they could get involved in this movement. Listening to representatives of the non-profits who relentlessly promote the environmental and social causes that we support. And listening to fellow members of Cooperative Coffees, our coffee importing organization, express their commitment to our mission of equitable, direct trade with farmers.

So there I was, hanging out in air-conditioned Anaheim, feeling quite blessed to be a part of this network of friends who, while gathered under the banner of the SCAA, really came to see each other. During three intense days of meetings and lunches and dinners and late-night sessions, we laughed, we congratulated each other on past year’s successes and we acknowledged how much more work there is to be done in the name of Fair Trade. No question about it — I’ll be back next year to see my friends!

— Bill Harris

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