Archive for February, 2010

On the Road to the Mountains: The Fruit Stand

1 vegg jars

There is no sign, just 42 quart jars of pickled veggies stacked four high. There is nothing like it anywhere on earth – color to die for! But not the tastes we were looking for. It is the end of the watermelon season in Nicaragua, and it is watermelon we seek, for it is the best watermelon in the world. Watermelon like back in the 50’s and before, when all American agriculture was still organic and the soil had microbes and worms and minerals, and the melons were at home, enjoying their summer months making sweet, crisp, mouth watering fruit. These were them! I knew “these were them” because I have stopped at this fruit stand every time I have headed north to the mountains, and for 25 years, I have never been disappointed.
2 Ben and JodyJody, a partner in G & G Markets in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, discussed the watermelon issues with Tom Honer, of Harvest Markets in Mendocino and Ft. Bragg, with Ben. How many to get? How to tell if it  is ripe? And how much to pay?
3 Jody and WatermelonBen was attracted to the Mandarins which cost less then five cents each; they were very tasty.
4 papayas

And there were Papayas too; we passed on them. After about 20 minutes of delicious exploration among the sweet fruity aromas mixed with the diesel fumes of the Panamerican Highway ten feet away, we left, knowing we were fortified with the energy sugars so essential to anticipation of things to come.  As for the watermelon, Jody cared for it. It was ice cold when I cut it open the next morning at breakfast. I was surprised to feel it being ice cold but Jody had taken it to her room the night before and stashed it in her room refrigerator. That’s how “grocery people” think, I guess. We ate that watermelon with our gallo pinto and eggs and I can report once again that no one was disappointed.
5 watermelon and gallo pintpo

Akilah Institute for Women

I went to Rwanda with a very small group of specialty coffee people in June, 2003.

My role in Thanksgiving Coffee had never been one of blazing trails in countries of origin. In fact, none of us had traveled to Africa up to that time. I was quite nervous about not having the skills such an undertaking warranted. But it seemed like a given that I would accept the invitation, which came to me almost as throwaway after it’s original invitee declined because of overwhelming commitments to works in progress. A rather amazing list of reasons I had to go forced me to ignore all the reasons I couldn’t. The experience was unlike any in my life, the rewards and pleasure ongoing.

Of course, the thread here is coffee, and Rwanda’s specialty coffee is fabulous. The coffee that we buy from our long time friends in the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative is part of the thread of this beautiful story that follows. I am so happy that the coffee we purchase from Rwanda’s small-scale growers, and roast with great care has had a small part in the realization of the Akilah School. I wish every school in the world had a Leadership and Ethics Instructor.

-Joan Katzeff

Nicaragua, February 2010

Just back from a “buying trip” to Nicaragua. It has been four years since I was last there. The farmers reminded me of that, much to my surprise. I was surprised by many things this time. How so much has changed at the Coffee Cooperatives, and how so little has changed in the market places we visited in each city we entered. Our trip took us from Managua North, to the mountains. Matagalpa first , then Jinotega and Estili on nights three and four. Then back to Managua, the capitol city and the flight home.IMGP1350IMGP1342IMGP1341

We tasted and selected some really fine coffees.  There were seven of us on the trip. We travelled in two Toyota pick ups (not on the recall list) so the musical chairs of deciding who to travel with got us all in sync.

The biggest change I noticed was the growth and progress of the coffee cooperatives themselves. In the four years since my last visit , their capacity to handle giant amounts of coffee grew exponentially. They all acquired more land to dry  coffee and had built new warehouses, coffee receiving stations, and office space. I will get into that in tomorrows blog.

What did not change were the local peoples markets. That is what was fascinating to me.  Where the local urban “Poor” spend their money , and how the merchants create their shops, and who they sell to and at what prices is worth taking a look at. First off, there are two economies, the dollar economy with it’s imported electronics , cars, boom boxes and cameras that sell at the same prices as you would expect in the USA, and the Cordoba economy based on their local currency where a pound of rice is 8 cords, or .40 cents U.S. The tortillas these ladies were pounding out were 20 for 10 cords.(2.5 cents each).

It was 10 am when I took these pictures at the Managua Central Market, a 5 acre indoor open air market with a thousand seller stalls selling everything from locally made shoes, pottery, household wares and food. It was a market you could get lost in. The ultimate mall.

Feast your eyes on these three pictures. They are rich in culture, color and the human spirit. More tomorrow.

Paul Katzeff

A New Year of Positive Growth for Mirembe

2009 was a busy year for the Mirembe Project and 2010 is shaping up to be even busier. A feature in Smithsonian Folkways Magazine, new computers for the PK Cooperative management, and a showcase of Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” coffee at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City has gotten this year off to a rolling start. This project continues to grow, build, and change and you are an integral part of it. Thank you for your continued support.

PKC Gets New Computers

In December, I sent an appeal to some of our supporters asking that they consider donating money to the Cooperative to support the purchase of new computers for PKC’s growing staff. This was a unique request from Thanksgiving Coffee. Ordinarily, we don’t have channels to manage supporters’ charitable donations. However, in this case there was a very specific need from the Cooperative and we were able to coordinate a community leader to spearhead this effort. Many thanks to Debbie in San Jose for being the central point of organization and for the final effort to make sure the money made it to Atlanta in time to be carried to Uganda. Six communities came together to support this fundraising effort. We were successful in raising $885, enough to purchase two new desktop systems for the Coop’s seven person staff!

On January 31st, a friend to Thanksgiving Coffee Company as well as the PK Coop, carried $455 to Uganda and later this week $430 more will be wired from Evanston, IL.

We are so grateful to the folks that came forward to support this effort: the Jewish Reconstructionist Community of Evanston, the Unitarian Universalists Congregation in Santa Rosa, Congregation Hakafa in Winnetka, the Center for Spiritual Living in San Jose, Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia, University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and a few individuals.

On behalf of the folks at the Cooperative, many many many thanks! These new computers will aid in significant improvements in operations and organization.

Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” featured at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival is an annual event in Nevada City. Over the course of three days, hundreds of environmentally focused films are shown – from features like Food, Inc. to smaller independent work such as Tapped (a compelling film highlighting issues with the plastic water bottle industry and water rights). Thanksgiving Coffee Company was approached to be a sponsor and we realized this festival was a great fit and a great location to promote Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” coffee as well as the trailer for the upcoming documentary “Delicious Peace Grows in a Uganda Coffee Bean” by independent film makers Ellen Friedland and Curt Fissel. 2-wild-and-scenic

Mirembe Kawomera Delicious Peace coffee was served all weekend at five concession venues around town and the trailer was shown three times with Jenais and Ben available to speak briefly at two of the showings. The audience was enthusiastic about the coffee, the project, and the trailer.

Learn more about the festival and view the four minute trailer that was edited specifically for Wild & Scenic 2010.

The Music of PKC Highlighted in Smithsonian Folkways Magazine

For the last few years, our friend, Rabbi Jeffrey Summit from Tufts University, has made three trips to visit the farmers at the Peace Kawomera Cooperative. One primary focus has been field recording the music of PKC’s coffee farmers. Rabbi Summit recently wrote a piece for Smithsonian Folkways Magazine about his work. It’s a great article about music as a means to communicate information, some of the challenges of trying to record in the field, as well as the tremendous labor required by the farmers. Below is an excerpt from his piece but please take a look at the full article:

3-field-recording“There is only one way for an excellent cup of Mirembe Kawomera coffee to get to my kitchen in Massachusetts, and it starts with a farmer in eastern Uganda walking into the field, looking carefully at a coffee tree, and picking the scattered coffee cherries that have ripened. Time is of the essence: cherries must be picked within a three–to–four–day window of ripeness. After picking, the cherries are sorted, washed, hand–pulped, dried, picked over, and bagged to be taken to the cooperative office. My fieldwork has made me acutely aware of this web of connection between us and coffee farmers in Uganda…”
– “Mirembe Kawomera (Delicious Peace) Coffee, Music and Interfaith Harmony in Uganda” Jeffrey Summit, Smithsonian Folkways Magazine, Winter 2010

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