Finca El Peten at SCAA conference 2009 in Atlanta – 04/09

John Thompson recently returned from Atlanta and the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual conference at the GA World Congress Center.  Every year, a different country receives special attention and this year Nicaragua was the featured country.  At the welcoming reception, we heard from Mario Salinas (Minister of the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute, INTUR) and a variety of other non-inspiring speakers. The highlight was actually the Embassador from Ethiopia that shared with us the progress his country has made in developing regulations, standards, and trade negotiations with the rest of the world.  There has been a lot of dialogue about Ethiopian coffee as it’s indeed the birthplace of coffee and feels a strongly about it’s inherent rights and priveleges as such.

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After the speakers, we attended a cocktail party complete with a beautiful display of Nicaraguan folkloric dancing, free Flor de Cana rum drinks, and lots of networking.  In fact, the networking we began that night was an indicator of what benefits lay ahead during the following 3 days of the conference.  JT met up with a few hotel operators in Nicaragua that are very interested in selling our coffee at their establishments, as well as connecting us with the small hotel operators association of Nicaragua in order to promote eco-tourism in Northern Nicaragua.

Although we don’t run our eco-lodge as a public hotel, it was good to see folks with similar intentions of sustainable development via eco-tourism.  Along the same lines, JT met Patricia Valiente who is a consultant out of El Salvador who has developed tourism “routes” in El Salvador.  They discussed best practices and lessons learned from developing eco-tourism routes focused on sustainability.

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The next day the expo opened and they spent the afternnoon chatting with Alan Odom from Interamerican Coffee, who has bought our coffee this year.  Great guy with great intentions for us.  He understands our approach to coffee and the local community and is connecting us with the like minded business contacts.  He introduced JT to the president of Elan Organic Coffees. She founded the International Women’s Coffee Alliance and invited JT to breakfast the following day to celebrate the signing in of Nicaragua, the 4th chapter along with Peru, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.

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JT met the president of the Nicaraguan chapter at that breakfast presentation and they are very interested in learning more about how we work with women from our local community Los Robles, Jinotega.  Womens groups had a very big presence at the conference and we looking forward to working with these organizations this year.  Grounds for Health is an organization that reached out to over 1,000 women in Matagalpa and Jinotega last Fall through their detection and treatment of Cervical Cancer programs.  They might be able to come to our farm to do the same kind of program this year, with fewer people of course!

There were amazing people doing great things for the community… in fact, the Specialty Coffee industry really seems to be a group of folks wanting to make a difference and very open to collaboration and sharing ideas.  On the business side, JT furthered conversation with a roaster in Atlanta who brings in coffee from Nicaragua in several containers annually.  We are working out the details for him to bring a couple hundred pounds of coffee into Atlanta… We would like to begin a little cottage industry for US distribution this year.  We’ll have our labels and bags ready soon, so be on the look out for possible markets.

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