Foundation development manager recounts meeting coffee farmers and families in Peru, Part II

Editor’s note: Earlier this month, Arbor Day Foundation development manager Jared Carlson traveled to Peru to meet many of the people who grow the beans that become our award-winning shade-grown coffee. He was in Costa Rica in January to look at the potential for new sources, a trip we described here. Below is part two of Jared’s first-person account about his most recent travels. Part one ran last week here. -SB

Day Four

Did you ever wonder as a child what it would be like to be a famous musician, actor or athlete?  I always thought I would be the same person, real and down to earth, but would I really? I had a small glimpse as I visited the small town of Las Mercedes, altitude 5,400 feet.

Within a few minutes of arrival, the town became alive with activity. School teachers lined up their students in their uniforms and the whole town decided to come out for the program. Along with the people came the paparazzi….or in this case, anyone in the town who had a camera. But I learned that they were there not to take pictures of the program, but to take pictures of me.

I found out later that I was the first North American to ever visit their town. I felt very humbled to be their first real impression of the United States. To say the least, I can think of many other people that would have been a better choice, but I was grateful that I could be there in that moment.

The town of Las Mercedes produces two containers of coffee a year and we were fortunate enough to be able to purchase them this year. I was moved by their charity, friendship and how caring of a people they were. The coffee is amazing and so are the people. I hope you enjoy it.

Day Five and Six

I got up early on my last day and headed to the airport in Chiclayo.

I arrived back in Lima in the morning and made my way to the offices of our exporters. We discussed some of the problems facing farmers and how a recent co-op had been caught paper trading coffee certifications. The co-op had claimed falsely that its coffee was  rain forest certified. Acts like these only taint the name of certifications that are making a real difference for the environment and the lives of farmers.

The Foundation has built several checks and balances – including tracking receipts – into the system to make sure that we don’t run into the same issues. We also put in place a flavor profile matching system to ensure that the coffee that we ultimately receive is from the same farms. Beyond that, every crop is cupped before shipping, upon arrival in the U.S. and then again before it is shipped to the customer.

Following a whirlwind tour of Lima, I headed back to the airport to take my red-eye flight back to the United States.

Meeting these farmers in-person during this trip, I am confident that they are doing the things we want them to do for the right reasons/ I feel the same way about our suppliers and distributors too. Our farmers love their trees and forests and can name you almost every species they have on their farms. They are delighted that they can grow their coffee under the rain forest  and still provide a good living for their families. It was very energizing to think of the impact that Arbor Day Specialty coffee is having on their lives.

All photos courtesy of Jared Carlson. 

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