For a little more than five years now I’ve been a keen student of coffee… of coffee’s origins and varietals, growing and processing, beans and blends and roasting. Along the way I’ve learned more about farming than I’d ever have imagined (even — or maybe, especially — given the long farming tradition of my mother’s family). I’ve discovered more geography than any social studies teacher could have dreamed for me. And by visiting coffee growing communities I’ve experienced first-hand the vast chasm between those who have and those who don’t. It’s stunning… and all the more so for the selfless nature and endless generosity of the have-nots in the equation.

Two groups of Green Mountain folk just returned from trips to Mexico, and to Guatemala, where I visited about this time last year. My fellow travelers describe the immense spirit, character and generosity of their hosts in these coffee-growing lands… places hard-hit by the ravages of hurricane Stan just a few months ago. In Guatemala, at the La Voz cooperative on the shores of Lake Atitlan, upwards of 90,000 coffee trees were lost when the mountain shrugged its rain-soaked shoulders. A number of small-holder farmers found their land was… gone. Disappeared.

The harvest came in early this year… affected by the rainy weather. It’s been a challenge as many drying patios are still covered in mud and roads and bridges are still washed out in many places. And yet — in the midst of it all — those same farmers greeted our weary travelers as old friends, shared their stories, their laughter, their food and water… and they spoke of their determination with every breath.

Coffee growing people are built of sturdy stuff… but they could still use a hand. If you can, you might consider lending yours.

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