Coffee project wrapping up

Olds College will wrap up its successful coffee sales project that helped a group of Dominican Republic farmers this spring.

Olds College will wrap up its successful coffee sales project that helped a group of Dominican Republic farmers this spring.

For 18 months, the college has imported coffee from three farmers, roasted the beans in Calgary and sold the light city roast online and at special events.

The light city roast coffee was also sold at Central Alberta Co-op stores.

Roughly $65,000 in gross profits was made from the 8,000 pounds of coffee sold. Another $18,000 was raised in direct donations from churches, individuals and community groups.

Ninety per cent of the profits went to support education and training for the coffee farmers and their children in the Jarabacoa region.

Toby Williams, director of entrepreneurship and international development, said the money was used to support the Compadre Pascual School, a small rural school near the coffee growing area. Improvements to the school included replacing the roof, building washroom facilities, installing a solar panel to generate electricity, and providing four netbook computers.

“The college is supportive of social enterprises but we’re winding down the coffee sales part of the project but on the look out for another social enterprise that we can get involved in,” said Williams. “We’ll probably stop selling the coffee by the end of the June but we will still be involved in the Dominican with the coffee farmers.”

Williams said they are optimistic that an Alberta private sector partner will take over the coffee project.

Recently the college was given the nod for the Association of Canadian Community College’s (ACCC) Silver Internationalization Excellence Award for the project. Williams said this was a great honour to receive the award because it wasn’t just about coffee sales but about the partnerships, involving students and other colleges.

Williams said one great outcome was sending 15 Olds College students to the Dominican at the end of April where they met farmers and visited the school. They were also able to visit the coffee realtors and roaster in Alberta.

“The students got to see the entire coffee value chain,” said Williams. “It’s a life changing experience for them. I was very happy that we could pull that together.”

She said the goal was to show students the importance of creating relationships with community and businesses in order to make a difference.

The project began in 2012 when former director of international development had the idea to import coffee from the Dominican Republic.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com