On Coffee Farmers And Thankfulness

Every year, small groups of Equal Exchange worker-owners journey to Nicaragua to meet small-scale coffee producers and to experience what it feels like to pick coffee. The trip often evokes feelings of connection with the farmers and an appreciation for the hard work that they do.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving back in the United States, we’re remembering the gratitude that we felt in Nicaragua, and giving thanks for the people who help bring food our tables. Here are some journal excerpts that reflect feelings of gratitude from our delegation in January 2015.

From Rick, Midwest Warehouse Lead:
“Eight months later, the intense emotional experience of our delegation has sort of distilled to a deep thankfulness and overall reverence for those who toil to produce the products that we, as consumers, eat or drink without a thought. I definitely think a little harder now about the products that I buy and the stories behind them.”

From Bethany, Community Sales Events Coordinator:  
“Emotions from my journey to the coffee farm in Nicaragua play back in my mind frequently. The feeling of fighting off my quickness to label something as unpleasant just because it wasn’t easy. My challenge to see the dirt under my fingernails as earth and life. Feelings of frustration with my lack of ability to communicate with limited Spanish but also pride that I was finally able to struggle through expressing my immense gratitude to my host family for their sincere hospitality and for the truly unique opportunity.”

From Sara, Copywriter and Content Coordinator:
“We spent hours picking coffee, climbing muddy slopes in the rain, reaching for red cherries beyond our fingertips, grasping branches for balance. At the end, the heavy basket tied around my waist was barely a quarter full. Wet and tired, I’d only picked enough to make a single cup of coffee. As I realized this, every taken-for-granted cup of coffee I’d ever had came back to me: every cup before work, every road trip pit stop, every exam cram session, every cup I brewed out of boredom, every coffee date, pumpkin spice latte, extra large iced coffee, and both complimentary cups on the flight to Nicaragua. Each one of those cups of coffee, immediately accessible, necessary and effortless for me, was the product of hours of work. And who is doing that work every day? It’s the farmers whose livelihoods rely on the success of their coffee trees. Farmers who innovate, invest all they have and struggle to grow their crop the hard way. Farmers who send their children to school in the city, and hope they come back with some new knowledge to carry them safely into an unpredictable future. Farmers who shared their homes and meals and stories with me that week in Dipilto. I can’t help but feel gratitude with every cup, reliving the memory of those mountains.”

One of the delegates, Bekah, was moved to write a prayer following our trip. She worked in the Equal Exchange Interfaith department for a few years and finally left to pursue her dream to become a Methodist minister. She’s currently a first year student in divinity school.

Bekah’s prayer: 
“God, bless the campesinos, the small-scale coffee farmers who spend all year working small, family-owned farms, with unpredictable harvests.

Renew their souls to so that they might carry on through the next harvest as their coffee fuels me through the next challenge in my life.
Help me remember that when I choose to buy the things that I need from fair trade companies, I’m investing in social projects like fresh water wells, educational materials, and organic agriculture projects.

Remind me every day that I do mission work simply by choosing the coffee that I drink.
Amen .”

This Thanksgiving, we hope you’ll join us in sharing your appreciation for farmers around the world.

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